Are we mismanaging calcium and phosphate metabolism in renal failure?

Am J Kidney Dis. 1997 Apr;29(4):641-9. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(97)90352-8.


Secondary hyperparathyroidism and renal osteodystrophy are the consequences of abnormal calcium, phosphate, and calcitriol metabolism ensuing from renal failure. Evidence suggests that calcium balance tends to become negative as we grow older than 35 years of age; however, the current dialysis modalities provide patients regardless of age with excessive calcium during dialysis. Administration of calcitriol in the management of hyperparathyroidism further increases the calcium and phosphate absorption. Furthermore, the current thrice-weekly renal replacement therapies fail to remove the daily absorbed phosphate, and we have to use calcium carbonate as a primary phosphate-binding agent to reduce intestinal phosphate absorption. The large calcium mass transfer and phosphate retention could lead to soft tissue calcification, especially in older end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. Consequently, only by maintaining a negative calcium balance during renal replacement therapy can we safely use calcitriol and calcium carbonate for the management of secondary hyperparathyroidism. Recent studies have indicated that phosphate restriction alone independent of plasma calcitriol or calcium can lower plasma parathyroid hormone (PTH) in renal failure and prevent hyperplasia of parathyroid glands. Therefore, phosphate control perhaps is the most important means to prevent secondary hyperparathyroidism. Previous studies have shown that ferric compounds are potent phosphate-binding agents; hence, these compounds warrant further trial in the management of phosphate metabolism in renal failure.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Calcinosis / etiology
  • Calcitriol / therapeutic use
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Secondary / etiology
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Secondary / prevention & control
  • Hyperparathyroidism, Secondary / therapy
  • Intestinal Absorption / drug effects
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / metabolism*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Renal Dialysis


  • Phosphates
  • Calcitriol
  • Calcium