Hyperphosphatemia: its consequences and treatment in patients with chronic renal disease

Am J Kidney Dis. 1992 Apr;19(4):303-17. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(12)80446-x.


Control of phosphorus accumulation in chronic renal insufficiency is crucial to the prevention of secondary hyperparathyroidism and metastatic calcification. In early renal failure, calcitriol levels are normal and parathyroid hormone levels are elevated. The phosphorus levels are maintained in the normal range by the phosphaturia induced by hyperparathyroidism. In this situation, dietary phosphorus restriction increases calcitriol levels and suppresses parathyroid hormone secretion. As renal failure progresses into late stages, hyperphosphatemia is evident along with low levels of calcitriol and worsening hyperparathyroidism. Phosphorus restriction will not affect calcitriol concentrations, yet parathyroid levels may decline. During long-term dialysis, urinary excretion of phosphorus is usually minimal. Therefore, phosphorus balance is determined primarily by the net amount absorbed by the bowel and the quantity removed during dialytic therapy. Given an adequate diet, no form of conventional dialysis is able to fully compensate for the gastrointestinal absorption of phosphorus. Hence, compounds that bind phosphorus in the bowel are often necessary. With the realization that the use of phosphorus binders containing aluminum leads to aluminum accumulation and its sequelae: osteomalacia, dementia, myopathy, and anemia, other phosphorus binders have been evaluated. Calcium carbonate has been investigated the most thoroughly and is in wide use. It is inexpensive and contains a high percent of elemental calcium. However, it is only modestly potent in the binding of phosphorus, and large doses are often necessary to attain satisfactory control of phosphorus. This may lead to hypercalcemia. One approach to this problem is to decrease the concentration of calcium in the dialysate. Alternatively, a more effective phosphorus binder may be used. Calcium acetate has been shown in acute studies to have twice the binding capacity of phosphorus per calcium absorbed than calcium carbonate. Whether use of this compound decreases the incidence of hypercalcemia is unproven. Calcium citrate increases the gastrointestinal absorption of aluminum and offers no advantage over calcium carbonate. Other compounds, such as calcium ketoacids and calcium alginate, have not been extensively studied and are not generally available. The use of phosphorus binders containing magnesium in conjunction with a dialysate low in magnesium may be efficacious. Large doses of magnesium will cause diarrhea and thus limit its use as a single agent. Reasons for failure to control hyperphosphatemia include poor compliance, improper prescription of binders, poor dissolution rates seen with some generic brands of calcium carbonate, and the presence of severe hyperparathyroidism. Optimal control of serum phosphorus in dialysis patients should always be viewed in the context of adequate nutrition and protein intake.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / therapeutic use
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism / etiology
  • Hyperparathyroidism / prevention & control
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / blood
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Magnesium / therapeutic use
  • Phosphorus / blood*
  • Phosphorus / metabolism


  • Phosphorus
  • Aluminum
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium