Background. Calciphylaxis is a rare but life-threatening condition occasionally affecting patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism. Parathyroidectomy has been advocated as the only potentially curative intervention. Methods. Between January 1989 and May 2000, 13 patients with pathologic/clinical criteria of calciphylaxis were treated at our institution. Of these 13 patients, 7 were managed with medical therapy alone, and 6 were referred for parathyroidectomy. The medical records were reviewed, and patients/relatives were interviewed. Results. All patients had cutaneous wounds requiring local debridement predominantly located on the lower extremities or abdominal wall. Six patients underwent subtotal (3.5 gland) parathyroidectomy without morbidity. All 6 had significant reductions in parathyroid hormone levels after surgery (mean decrease, 94 % ± 0%), and all reported resolution of pain and healing of cutaneous wounds. Of the remaining 7 patients who had medical management alone, 5 eventually died of complications related to calciphylaxis. In comparing the 2 groups, patients who underwent parathyroidectomy had a significantly longer median survival than those who did not have surgery (36 vs 3 months, P = .021). Conclusions. Calciphylaxis frequently causes gangrene, sepsis, and eventual death. Parathyroidectomy can be performed with minimal morbidity and is associated with resolution of pain, wound healing, and a significantly longer median survival. Therefore, patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism and signs/symptoms of calciphylaxis should be referred promptly for consideration of parathyroidectomy.
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