Is calciphylaxis best treated surgically or medically?

Surgery. 2000 Dec;128(6):967-71;discussion 971-2. doi: 10.1067/msy.2000.110429.


Background: Calciphylaxis is a rare, painful, life-threatening problem of cutaneous necrosis and refractory healing in patients with uremia and secondary hyperparathyroidism. The pathogenesis involves abnormalities in calcium and phosphorus metabolism and acute deposition of calcium in tissues.

Method: The clinical course of 16 patients who were diagnosed with calciphylaxis at our institution from 1994 through 1998 was reviewed.

Results: Fourteen female patients and 2 male patients had chronic renal disease, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and characteristic skin necrosis (mean age, 56 years; range, 39-70 years). All patients underwent intensive medical therapy, including ongoing hemodialysis (n = 16 patients), parathyroidectomy (n = 7 patients), and debridement of cutaneous lesions (n = 8 patients). Mean serum values in surgical and nonsurgical patients were significantly different for phosphorus, calcium-phosphorus product, and parathormone levels. Median survival was 9.4 months; 15 patients (93%) have died. The median survival time for parathyroidectomy versus nonparathyroidectomy was 14.8 and 6.3 months (P =.22), for skin debridement versus nondebridement was 14.1 and 6.1 months (P =.08), and for diabetic versus nondiabetic patients was 6.5 and 13.9 months (P =.11).

Conclusions: Calciphylaxis has a female preponderance, with a dismal prognosis. A multidisciplinary approach that uses frequent hemodialysis to normalize calcium and phosphorus levels and local debridement of skin lesions seems prudent. Parathyroidectomy cannot be recommended routinely in all patients, unless severe hyperparathyroidism mandates intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Calciphylaxis / etiology
  • Calciphylaxis / mortality
  • Calciphylaxis / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parathyroidectomy
  • Retrospective Studies