Microscopic nephrocalcinosis in cystic fibrosis

N Engl J Med. 1988 Aug 4;319(5):263-6. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198808043190502.


Airway, sweat-duct, and other epithelial cells in patients with cystic fibrosis display abnormal ion transport. To test whether the kidney, the organ most exquisitely adapted for ion transport, has a similar defect, we measured the levels of calcium excretion and searched for microscopic nephrocalcinosis in patients with cystic fibrosis. Thirty-eight specimens of kidney tissue were stained for calcium deposits, and 24-hour levels of urinary calcium excretion were measured in 14 patients and 15 control subjects. Microscopic nephrocalcinosis was observed in 35 of the 38 specimens (92 percent), and hypercalciuria (greater than 182 mg per gram of creatinine) in 5 of the 14 patients (36 percent). Notably, nephrocalcinosis was detected near the time of birth (in six patients under one year old, including two neonates and one stillborn infant), which supports the hypothesis that such renal calcium deposits reflect the genomic defect and are not due to longstanding pulmonary dysfunction, chronic infection, therapeutic agents, or disease progression. None of the patients with hypercalciuria or nephrocalcinosis had clinical evidence of renal dysfunction. The finding of microscopic nephrocalcinosis near the time of birth in patients with cystic fibrosis suggests a primary abnormality of calcium metabolism in the kidney. Studies of the pathophysiologic features of the kidney in cystic fibrosis may elucidate the molecular alterations observed in this disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium / urine
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / complications*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Nephrocalcinosis / etiology
  • Nephrocalcinosis / pathology*


  • Calcium