Media calcification and intima calcification are distinct entities in chronic kidney disease

Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2008 Nov;3(6):1599-605. doi: 10.2215/CJN.02120508. Epub 2008 Sep 24.


Calcification of the vascular tree is common in physiologic and pathologic conditions, i.e., aging, diabetes, dyslipidemia, genetic diseases, and diseases with disturbances of calcium metabolism. In chronic kidney disease, vascular calcification is even more common, develops early, and contributes to the markedly increased cardiovascular risk in this particular population. Pathomorphologically, atherosclerosis (i.e., plaque-forming degenerative changes of the aorta and of large elastic arteries) and arteriosclerosis (i.e., concentric media thickening of muscular arteries) can be distinguished. Increasing knowledge about calcification together with improved imaging techniques provided evidence that also vascular calcification has to be divided into two distinct entities according to the specific sites of calcification within the vascular wall: Patchy calcification of the intima in the vicinity of lipid or cholesterol deposits as present in plaque calcification and calcification of the media in the absence of such lipid or cholesterol deposits, known as Mönckeberg-type atherosclerosis. The two types of calcification may vary according to the type of vessel (large elastic versus smaller muscular type artery) and proximal versus distal sites of the arterial tree. Furthermore, clinical studies showed that it is not purely academic to distinguish between intimal and medial calcification but rather relevant for the clinical presentation, treatment, and prognosis because each type leads to different clinical consequences. In vivo studies in animal models provided evidence in favor of common pathomechanisms between vascular calcification and atherosclerosis; however, there is other, strong experimental and clinical evidence that pleads for the continued distinction between intimal and medial calcification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / pathology*
  • Calcinosis / pathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology*
  • Monckeberg Medial Calcific Sclerosis / pathology
  • Tunica Intima / pathology*
  • Tunica Media / pathology*