- 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 requires specialists in nephrology, dermatology, plastic surgery, endocrinology, infectious disease and other areas to work together to treat people with calciphylaxis.
- Multimodal treatment. Mayo Clinic doctors use a three-pronged approach to treat calciphylaxis that includes decreasing calcium accumulation, restoring blood flow and oxygenation to the tissues, and applying intensive wound treatment. Mayo Clinic dermatology pioneered the use of low-dose tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) to dissolve tiny blood clots in calciphylaxis.
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 tissues of oxygen and nourishment.
Calciphylaxis most commonly affects people who have end-stage kidney failure. Possible risk factors include:
- Being female
- Long-term dialysis and sometimes kidney transplantation
- An imbalance of calcium, phosphorus and aluminum in the body
- 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
- An abnormality in blood-clotting factors — substances in your blood that help stop bleeding and form blood clots
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.
Mayo Clinic: Answers you can trust
At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.
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June 18, 2015
- Santos PW, et al. Calciphylaxis (calcific uremic arteriolopathy). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 7, 2015.
- AskMayoExpert. How is calciphylaxis treated? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- AskMayoExpert. What tests are used to diagnose calciphylaxis? Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2014.
- Nigwekar SU, et al. Calciphylaxis: Risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. In press. Accessed May 13, 2015.
- Wangen T, et al. Calciphylaxis: An unusual case with an unusual outcome. The American Journal of Nursing. 2014;114:24.
- Brandenburg VM, et al. Calciphylaxis in CKD and beyond. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation. 2012;27:1314.
- Vedvyas C, et al. Calciphylaxis: A systematic review of existing and emerging therapies. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2012;67:e253.
- El-Azhary RA, et al. Retrospective analysis of tissue plasminogen activator as an adjuvant treatment for calciphylaxis. JAMA Dermatology. 2013;149:63.
- El-Azhary RA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 6, 2015.
- Sluzevich JC (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. May 26, 2015.