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Drugs Aging. 2004;21(3):153-65.

Management of hyperphosphataemia in dialysis patients: role of phosphate binders in the elderly.

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  • 1Nephrology Service, Hospital Universitario de Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain.


Phosphorus control remains a relevant clinical problem in dialysis patients. With age, however, serum phosphorus level decreases significantly because of a spontaneous decrease in protein intake. Older patients usually need lower doses of phosphorus binders. Nevertheless, hyperphosphataemia is observed in a quarter of patients aged >65 years. Phosphorus retention is related to an imbalance between phosphorus intake and removal by dialysis, and is usually aggravated when vitamin D analogues are employed. Hyperphosphataemia induces secondary hyperparathyroidism and the development of osteitis fibrosa. Recent publications describe an association between phosphorus retention and increased calcium and phosphorus product (Ca2+ x P), with significant progression of tissue calcification and higher mortality risk. Dietary intervention, phosphorus removal during dialysis and phosphorus binders are current methods for the management of hyperphosphataemia. However, the phosphorus removed by standard haemodialysis is insufficient to achieve a neutral phosphorus balance when protein intake is >50 g/day. Additional protein restriction may impose the risk of a negative protein balance. More frequent dialysis may help to control resistant hyperphosphataemia. Phosphorus binders constitute the mainstay of serum phosphorus level control in end-stage renal disease patients. Aluminium-based phosphorus binders, associated with toxic effects, have largely been substituted by calcium-based phosphorus binders. However, widespread use of calcium-based phosphorus binders has evidenced the frequent appearance of hypercalcaemia and long-term progressive cardiovascular calcification. Sevelamer, a relatively new phosphorus binder, has proved efficacious in lowering serum phosphorus and parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels without inducing hypercalcaemia. Furthermore, several investigators have reported that sevelamer may prevent progression of coronary calcification. However, its efficacy in severe cases of hyperphosphataemia remains to be confirmed in large series. There are no specific guidelines for phosphorus control in the elderly. Until more information is available, levels of mineral metabolites should be targeted in the same range as those recommended for the general population on dialysis (calcium 8.7-10.2 mg/dL, phosphorus 3.5-5.5 mg/dL and Ca2+ x P 50-55 mg2/dL2). PTH values over 120 ng/L help to avoid adynamic bone disease. Since elderly patients have a higher incidence of adynamic bone (which buffers less calcium) and vascular calcification, sevelamer should be the phosphorus binder of choice in this population; but sevelamer is costly and its long-term efficacy has not been definitively validated. Patients with low normal levels of calcium may receive calcium-based phosphorus binders with little risk. Patients with low values of PTH and high normal calcium should receive sevelamer. Tailored combinations of calcium-based phosphorus binders and sevelamer should be considered, and calcium dialysate concentration adjusted accordingly.

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