Background: Vascular calcification (VC) is a recognized process involved in senescence and atherosclerosis. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are conditions associated with metabolic disorders related to soft tissue calcification.
Methods: We performed a systematic review of the literature confined to patients with CKD or ESRD with clinical observations of VC. Case reports of calciphylaxis were excluded. We identified 30 studies over 20 years: 11 prospective cohort, 7 cross-sectional, 11 case-control, and 1 retrospective cohort; n = 2918 subjects, mean age 51 years, 59% men and 41% women. Imaging methods used included: x-ray 43%, computed tomography 30%, ultrasound 17%, and other methods 10%.
Results: The most consistent determinants of VC were older age and dialysis vintage. Eight analyses determined a relationship between VC and measures of calcium-phosphate balance while 20 analyses specifically did not find such a relationship. Three studies suggested the degree of calcium loading, treatment with phosphate binders, or treatment with vitamin D analogues were related to VC. When taken into consideration, the lipid profile (primarily low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, elevated low-density lipoprotein, and elevated total cholesterol) were predictive factors in four analyses.
Conclusions: VC is a common observation in CKD and ESRD and is mainly related to age, length of time on dialysis therapy, and possibly dyslipidemia. The calcium-phosphorus balance and its related treatments are likely not related to this unique form of vascular calcification. Further research into the determinants and potential treatments for vascular calcification is warranted.