Why choose Mayo Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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  • Expertise and experience. Even though calciphylaxis is uncommon, Mayo Clinic doctors have the expertise and experience to diagnose and treat this disease.
  • Multispecialty team. Calciphylaxis is a complicated disease that can affect different organs. Mayo's specialists in nephrology, dermatology, plastic surgery, endocrinology, infectious disease and other areas as needed work together to treat people with calciphylaxis.
  • Cutting-edge treatment. Mayo Clinic doctors use a three-pronged approach to treat calciphylaxis that includes decreasing calcium accumulation, restoring blood flow and intensive wound treatment. Mayo Clinic dermatology pioneered the use of low-dose tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) to dissolve tiny blood clots in calciphylaxis.

About

Calciphylaxis is a serious condition in which abnormal amounts of calcium are deposited in the body, mainly in the small blood vessels that supply fat tissue (vascular calcification). The cause of calciphylaxis is unknown, but doctors believe that an imbalance in the metabolism of calcium causes calcium to be deposited in the smallest parts of the arteries (arterioles). This eventually leads to the formation of blood clots in the arterioles, depriving the fat and skin above it from oxygen and nourishment.

Calciphylaxis most commonly affects people who have end-stage kidney failure. Risk factors include:

  • Long-term dialysis and sometimes kidney transplantation
  • An imbalance of calcium, phosphorus and aluminum in the body
  • Vitamin D therapy, which can increase the buildup of calcium and phosphorus
  • Some medications, such as calcium-binding agents or corticosteroids
  • An overproduction of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which regulates the level of calcium and phosphorus in the body — a condition known as hyperparathyroidism
  • Uremia, a toxic condition in which substances normally eliminated in the urine — such as calcium and phosphorus — build up in the body

Rarely, calciphylaxis occurs in people with no known kidney or calcium abnormalities for unknown reasons.

If you have this disease, you will often have:

  • Deep, very painful lumps with open sores and brown crust that fail to heal — typically in skin areas with high fat content, such as the stomach and thigh, although they can occur anywhere
  • Infections from wounds that don't heal

Complications of calciphylaxis include:

  • Pain and ulceration
  • Blood infections
  • Death, usually due to infection and multiorgan failure

Typically, the outlook for people with calciphylaxis is not good, so early detection and treatment is very important.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., ranks #1 for kidney disorders in the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings. Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., is ranked among the Best Hospitals for kidney disorders, and Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., is ranked high performing for kidney disorders by U.S. News & World Report.

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