Secondary hyperparathyroidism is a universal complication in patients with chronic renal failure. Hyperplasia of the parathyroid glands is typically seen in these patients. In early renal failure, alteration in vitamin metabolism, decreased levels of calcitriol and moderate decreases in ionized calcium may allow greater synthesis and secretion of PTH. As the disease progresses, there is a decrease in the number of vitamin D receptors (VDR) and calcium receptors (CaR). The decreased number of VDR and CaR makes the parathyroid glands more resistant to calcitriol and calcium. Phosphorus induces hyperplasia of the parathyroid glands independent of calcium and calcitriol, and by a post-transcriptional mechanism increases PTH synthesis and secretion. Experimental work in uremic rats demonstrated that if the animals are fed a high-phosphorus diet, they not only developed secondary hyperparathyroidism but parathyroid cell hyperplasia. If the diet is then reduced in phosphorus, the levels of PTH return to normal. However, the parathyroid cell hyperplasia persists and no apoptosis is seen. Thus, the control of the three most important factors, calcium, calcitriol and phosphorus, is critical to prevent the development of secondary hyperparathyroidism and hyperplasia of the parathyroid glands.