Questionable specificity of histologic findings in calcific uremic arteriolopathy

Carla LaShannon Ellis, W. Charles O'Neill*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


A variety of criteria exist for histopathologic diagnosis of calciphylaxis, also known as calcific uremic arteriolopathy but data on their specificity are limited. To assess this, histologic findings of 38 skin biopsies performed for a suspicion of calcific uremic arteriolopathy were compared with histologic findings in skin obtained from healthy margins of 43 amputations in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) without evidence of calcific uremic arteriolopathy. Abnormalities in small arteries or arterioles were present in 35% of amputation specimens and 55% of skin biopsies, and among these only thrombosis but not calcification was significantly more prevalent in skin biopsies. The prevalence of extravascular calcification did not differ. Vascular lesions were more common in skin biopsies from patients with high clinical suspicion of calcific uremic arteriolopathy (81%), significantly driven by increases in both calcification and thrombosis, compared to amputations (35%). The combination of medial calcification and thrombosis was six-fold more prevalent in high-suspicion skin biopsies than in amputation specimens. The location of affected vessels did not differ. In two autopsy cases, some but not all findings of involved skin were also present in uninvolved skin. Thus, histopathologic findings historically associated with calcific uremic arteriolopathy can also occur in viable tissue from unaffected patients with ESRD, calling into question the specificity of individual histologic findings for calcific uremic arteriolopathy. However, the combination of medial calcification and thrombosis was rare in unaffected patients and may provide a higher degree of specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-395
Number of pages6
JournalKidney international
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • calciphylaxis
  • end-stage renal disease
  • histology
  • vascular calcification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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