Management of disturbances of calcium and phosphate metabolism in chronic renal insufficiency, with emphasis on the control of hyperphosphataemia

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2002 May;17(5):723-31. doi: 10.1093/ndt/17.5.723.


Background: Disturbances of calcium-phosphate (Ca-P) metabolism in chronic renal insufficiency (CRI) play an important role not only in bone disease (renal osteodystrophy) but also in soft tissue calcification, with an increased risk of vascular calcification, arterial stiffness, and worsening of atherosclerosis.

Methods: Discussion in order to achieve a consensus on key points relating to pathogenesis, clinical assessment, and management of renal osteodystrophy in dialysis patients.

Results: Secondary hyperparathyroidism develops primarily as a consequence of reduced active vitamin D production by the kidneys and phosphate retention, with the development of hyperphosphataemia, hypocalcaemia, and increased parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. The same factors over the long term cause parathyroid gland hyperplasia and autonomous PTH production (tertiary hyperparathyroidism). As hyperphosphataemia and increased CaxP product have been associated with increased mortality in dialysis patients, hyperparathyroidism should be prevented and managed, starting in the pre-dialysis period, by calcium/vitamin D supplementation. Hyperphosphataemia is usually treated by means of intestinal phosphate binders, but different types of binders have been used. The traditional aluminium-based phosphate binders are certainly effective, but have the drawback of side effects due to aluminium absorption (osteomalacia, encephalopathy, microcytic anaemia). Calcium-containing phosphate binders (calcium carbonate or calcium acetate) have mainly been used for the last 10-15 years. However, they aggravate metastatic calcification, particularly if they are taken together with vitamin D analogues and a high calcium dialysate concentration. New calcium- and aluminium-free phosphate binders have recently been developed and may be useful, particularly in patients with metastatic calcification and/or hypercalcaemic episodes, in order to reduce the phosphate burden in the absence of an additional calcium load. New vitamin D analogues and calcimimetic drugs are also being developed for PTH suppression, with the goal to minimize or even entirely avoid hypercalcaemia and/or hyperphosphataemia. A suitable dialysate calcium concentration is important and must take into consideration the medical therapy and the calcium balance on an individual patient basis. Surgical parathyroidectomy is the ultimate means of treating hypercalcaemic hyperparathyroidism, when medical therapy has failed.

Conclusion: Achieving an evidence-based consensus can give clinicians a useful tool for the treatment of disturbances of Ca-P metabolism in CRI: this has become an important objective in nephrological care, particularly as ageing and increased risk of atherosclerosis have become major issues in the dialysis population.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Diseases / drug therapy
  • Bone Diseases / prevention & control
  • Bone Remodeling
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Secondary / etiology
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Secondary / pathology
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Secondary / prevention & control
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Phosphates / blood
  • Phosphates / metabolism*


  • Phosphates
  • Calcium