Background: We have biopsied the renal cortex and papillae of patients who form brushite renal stones asking if this unusual stone type is associated with specific tissue changes. We contrasted these with biopsies of 15 calcium oxalate stone formers, three stone formers with intestinal bypass, and four normal subjects.
Methods: We studied all ten brushite stone formers treated with percutaneous nephrolithotomy (PNL) during the past 3 years using digital video imaging of renal papillae, and obtained cortical and papillary biopsies. Biopsies were analyzed by light and electron microscopy, microinfrared spectroscopy, and electron diffraction.
Results: Apatite crystals plugged scattered terminal collecting ducts whose cells were injured or dead, and surrounding interstitium inflamed and fibrotic. White papillary deposits of interstitial apatite particles, so called Randall's plaque, were also present. Glomerular changes and cortical tubular atrophy and interstitial fibrosis were moderate to severe.
Conclusion: Brushite stone formers combine the interstitial plaque of calcium oxalate stone formers with the collecting duct apatite plugs found in stone formers with intestinal bypass. Collecting duct injury and interstitial fibrosis are severe. Prominent cortical fibrosis, tubule atrophy, and glomerular pathology seem secondary to the collecting duct plugging. We believe crystallization obstructs and destroys terminal collecting duct segments thereby damaging nephrons, perhaps via intranephronal obstruction, and producing a hitherto unrecognized renal disease.