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Am Surg. 1994 Feb;60(2):81-6.

Calciphylaxis: early recognition and management.

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Department of Surgery, University of Tennessee, College of Medicine-Chattanooga Unit 37403.


Calciphylaxis, a syndrome of disseminated calcification found in chronic renal failure patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism, results in soft tissue calcification and vascular medial calcinosis leading to subsequent ischemic tissue necrosis. It is a rarely occurring condition in which patients present with painful, violaceous, mottled lesions of the extremities and/or trunk that progress to skin and subcutaneous tissue necrosis, non-healing ulcers, and gangrene. We reviewed the clinical course of seven patients (aged 24-69) with calciphylaxis treated at our institution over a 4-year period (October 1988-June 1992). All seven patients underwent parathyroidectomy, with a mean time of 8 weeks (range 3-20 weeks) between the onset of calciphylactic symptoms and parathyroidectomy. Four patients died, three secondary to wound-related sepsis. Of the three survivors, two healed soft tissue lesions primarily. The other required extremity amputation and wound excision before healing. Neither anatomical location of the soft tissue lesions nor post-parathyroidectomy serum calcium and phosphorus levels had any bearing on wound healing or mortality. Lesion severity at the time of parathyroidectomy appeared to best correlate with clinical course. Although treatment with phosphate-binding antacids, total or subtotal parathyroidectomy, and avoidance of challengers such as Vitamin D or local tissue trauma remain the mainstays of therapy, the uniform cure for calciphylaxis remains elusive. Prognosis for patients with calciphylaxis is dismal, even following late surgical intervention. Earlier recognition of the signs and symptoms of calciphylaxis should lead to timely parathyroidectomy in the hopes of ameliorating the symptoms and preventing or retarding its progressive sequelae.

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