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Biology of vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease

Behdad Afzali, MRCP, PhD, PGDip, FHEA, MAcadMEd
David JA Goldsmith, MA, FRCP
Section Editor
Stanley Goldfarb, MD
Deputy Editor
Alice M Sheridan, MD


The most common cause of death in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients is cardiovascular disease (CVD), often related to sudden cardiac death. (See "Myocardial dysfunction in end-stage renal disease" and "Evaluation of sudden cardiac arrest and sudden cardiac death in dialysis patients".)

It is hypothesized that sudden cardiac death is related, at least in part, to excess vascular calcification (VC), particularly in the form of extensive coronary artery calcification (CAC) [1-4]. (See "Patient survival and maintenance dialysis" and "Diagnostic and prognostic implications of coronary artery calcification detected by computed tomography".)

This topic reviews the definition and pathogenesis of VC, particularly CAC, in dialysis patients. Risk factors, epidemiology, and clinical implications of VC in renal disease are discussed separately. (See "Vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease".)


All large and medium-sized muscular arteries and arterioles can calcify. By comparison, veins hardly ever undergo calcification, unless injured or arterialized [5]. As examples, calcification associated with arteriolization may occur after coronary artery bypass grafting or arteriovenous fistula formation, or in the pulmonary arterial tree of patients with pulmonary hypertension [6].

Among CKD patients, there are two types of VC:


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Nov 10, 2014.
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