Perspectives in Renal MedicineVascular calcification: A stiff challenge for the nephrologist: Does preventing bone disease cause arterial disease
Review articleOpen access

Vascular calcification: A stiff challenge for the nephrologists—Does preventing bone disease cause arterial disease? There has been an explosion of interest in vascular calcification in the last 5 years. Four key “germinal” findings have fallen onto very fertile soil. First, on the background of an increasing cardiovascular disease burden it has been found that at least cross-sectionally, and in a limited fashion prospectively, achieved dialysis plasma phosphate levels are linked to all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Second, there are increasing reports of calcific uremic arteriolopathy in Australia and the United States. Third, we know know that the mechanical properties of the carotid artery, and the aorta, have a profound influence on survival for dialysis patients. Vascular calcification itself (as assessed by x-ray films and ultrasound) has been linked to aortic stiffness. Fourth, increasing numbers of studies are showing extremely extensive coronary artery calcification (CAC) in dialysis patients, even at a young age. From these apparently unlinked observations the following assertion has been posited—that in the widespread (over) use of calcium-containing oral phosphate binders (OPB) to prevent uremic osteodystrophy in our dialysis population we have unwittingly accelerated widespread uremic vasculopathy and thereby contributed to premature cardiovascular mortality.It is the purpose of this article to discuss vascular calcification (and particularly CAC) in dialysis patients as we understand it today. We will review the published series, with special reference to the Sevelamer Treat to Goal trial and also discuss the new Kidney Disease Outcome Quality Initiative (K-DOQI) guidelines on the use of phosphate binders in chronic kidney disease.

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