Vascular calcification in long-term haemodialysis patients in a single unit: a retrospective analysis

Nephron. 1997;77(1):37-43. doi: 10.1159/000190244.


Vascular calcification (VC), which is described in the elderly and in diabetics, is frequently seen in uraemia. It is usually regarded as having little significance. We studied the roentgenological appearance of VC in a homogeneous group of 38 long-hours haemodialysis patients whose longevity on dialysis allowed sustained (10-25 years) follow-up, including annual skeletal surveys and thrice-yearly clinical examinations and biochemical profiles. We compiled a dossier of clinical and laboratory parameters from the start of dialysis to the present day. We were able to analyze the natural history of VC and to determine which clinical parameters were linked with progression. We found that VC became steadily more prevalent-at dialysis onset present in 39% of the patients, but in 92% after an average dialysis duration of 16 years, with a mean onset 9.7 years after starting dialysis. As well as becoming more prevalent, the calcification became progressively more severe in most patients. There were two patterns of VC: axial (aorta and iliac and femoral arteries), seen alone in 32% of the patients, and peripheral (digital arteries), seen alone in 3% of patients. Most patients (65%) had evidence of both types. Calcification was scored for site and severity. Patient age (r = 0.57, p < 0.001), systolic blood pressure (r = 0.54, p < 0.001), hyperparathyroidism (reduced progression after parathyroidectomy), plasma phosphate (r = 0.34, p = 0.042), and vitamin D concentrations (r = 0.53, p < 0.001) were the principal determinants of severity and rate of progression of VC in this population. There was a weak negative association between progression and serum ferritin (r = -0.33, p = 0.046). The reduced vessel compliance that results from VC is likely to be cardiovascularly deleterious. In severe cases, tissue perfusion or vascular access for haemodialysis can be compromised. VC and accelerated cardiovascular mortality are common to uraemia, diabetes, and systolic hypertension in the elderly. Better understanding of these pathological processes may permit intervention and possibly lead to a reduction in cardiovascular mortality.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Calcinosis / complications
  • Calcinosis / etiology*
  • Calcinosis / pathology
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Transplantation / physiology
  • Long-Term Care
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peritoneal Dialysis, Continuous Ambulatory / adverse effects
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Uremia / complications*
  • Uremia / therapy
  • Vascular Diseases / complications
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Vascular Diseases / pathology