Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether a relationship exists between CT-detected calcifications in the main renal artery and renal artery stenosis. We also evaluated whether renal artery calcifications are more indicative of stenosis in particular patient subgroups based on age, sex, or hypertensive status.
Materials and methods: We retrospectively reviewed the examinations of 70 patients (122 kidneys) undergoing both abdominal CT and angiography for various clinical conditions, most commonly evaluation of a tumor or aneurysm. CT studies were evaluated for degree of calcification at the orifice and in the proximal and distal segments of the main renal artery. The angiograms were evaluated for degree of narrowing. Renal artery stenosis was defined as a reduction in cross-sectional area of 75% or more. A separate analysis was performed on male and female patients above and below 65 years of age, with and without hypertension.
Results: Renal arteries with clumps of calcium (> 3 mm in diameter) had a higher percentage of stenosis (7/16, 44%) than did renal arteries with less calcium (16/53, 30%), and renal arteries with no calcium had the fewest stenoses (9/53, 17%; p = .02). Calcifications in the renal artery were not good predictors of stenosis as they were frequently seen in arteries with nonsignificant narrowing and were occasionally seen in arteries with no narrowing. The patient's sex was not a significant factor in this analysis (p = .34). Renal artery calcifications in hypertensive patients showed a stronger association with renal artery stenosis, but the overall ability to predict stenosis remained poor. However, calcification may be significant in persons less than 65 years old, in whom this finding was associated with stenosis all three cases (100%). Similar calcifications in patients 65 years old or more were associated with stenosis in only 4 (31%) of 13 cases (p < .01).
Conclusion: CT-detected calcifications in renal arteries are associated with stenosis, but their predictive value in the general population or in hypertensive patients is poor. These calcifications in a patient less than 65 years of age are a better indicator of stenosis of the renal artery.