Purpose of review: Arterial calcification in chronic kidney disease (CKD) is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. The mechanisms responsible for arterial calcification include alterations of mineral metabolism and expression of mineral-regulating proteins.
Recent findings: Arterial calcification is similar to bone formation, involving differentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) into phenotypically distinct osteoblast-like cells. Elevated phosphate and/or calcium trigger a concentration-dependent increase of calcium precipitates in VSMC in vitro. The calcification is initiated by VSMC release of membrane-bound matrix vesicles and formation of apoptotic bodies. The presence of serum prevents these changes, indicating the presence of calcification inhibitors. Arterial calcification occurs in two sites: the tunica intima and tunica media. Intimal calcification is a marker of atherosclerotic disease and is associated with arterial stenotic lesions. Medial calcification influences outcome by promoting arterial stiffening whose principal consequences are left-ventricular hypertrophy and altered coronary perfusion. Aortic stiffness is an independent predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in CKD patients. Age, duration of dialysis, smoking and diabetes are risk factors for the development of arterial calcification in end-stage renal disease. Oversuppression of parathyroid hormone and low bone turnover potentiate the development of arterial calcification.
Summary: Arterial disease in CKD patients is characterized by extensive calcification. Evidence has accumulated pointing to the active and regulated nature of the calcification process. Elevated phosphate and calcium may stimulate sodium-dependent phosphate cotransport involving osteoblast-like changes in cellular gene expression. Arterial calcification is responsible for stiffening of the arteries with increased left-ventricular afterload and abnormal coronary perfusion as the principal clinical consequences.