Long-term effects of intravenous calcitriol therapy on the control of secondary hyperparathyroidism

Fabio Malberti, Bruno Corradi, Paolo Cosci, Fabrizio Calliada, Daniele Marcelli, Enrico Imbasciati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although high-dose intravenous calcitriol has been shown to be effective in suppressing parathyroid hormone (PTH) secretion in dialysis patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism, an increasing number of patients is refractory to treatment. Only a few studies have evaluated the factors that can predict a favorable response to calcitriol, but contrasting results have been reported. This study was performed to evaluate the effect of high-dose intravenous calcitriol on parathyroid function and to investigate the factors that can predict a favorable response to treatment. Thirty-five dialysis patients were selected for intravenous calcitriol treatment (2 μg after dialysis for 12 months) because of increased PTH levels (>325 pg/mL). Before starting the treatment, the set point of calcium and the PTH-ionized calcium (ICa) curve was evaluated in each patient by inducing hypocalcemia and, 1 week later, hypercalcemia to maximally stimulate or inhibit PTH secretion. Parathyroid glands were assessed by high-resolution color Doppler ultrasonography. Throughout the study, calcium carbonate or acetate dosage was modified to maintain serum phosphate less than 5.5 mg/dL. Hypercalcemia was managed by reducing dialysate calcium to 5 mg/dL and, if necessary, calcitriol dose. The therapeutic goat was to reduce PTH levels below 260 pg/mL while maintaining normocalcemia. The patients who achieved the therapeutic goal were considered responders. Taking the data from the 35 patients together, we observed a significant decrease (P <0.01) in alkaline phosphatase (from 252 ± 106 IU/L to 194 ± 81 IU/L) and PTH (from 578 ± 231 pg/mL to 408 ± 291 pg/mL), and a significant increase in serum ICa (from 5.1 ± 0.2 mg/dL to 5.3 ± 0.2 mg/dL; P <0.001} after calcitriol therapy. PTH changes after therapy were not correlated to serum ICa changes, serum phosphate levels during treatment, and calcitriol dose. The response to therapy was heterogeneous because PTH levels markedly decreased over the treatment period in 18 responsive patients, whereas they increased or remained unchanged in 14 of 17 nonresponders. In three additional refractory patients, there was a decline in PTH of 20% to 35%, but this decline was associated with hypercalcemia. Pretreatment parathyroid gland size, serum ICa, PTH, maximal PTH induced by hypocalcemia, minimal PTH induced by hypercalcemia, the set point of ICa, and the ICa levels at which maximal PTH secretion and inhibition occurred were higher in the 17 refractory patients than in the 18 responsive patients. However, logistic regression analysis showed that among these parathyroid function parameters, the only significant predictors of a favorable response to calcitriol therapy were the parathyroid gland size and the set point of ICa. Throughout the study, serum phosphate and calcitriol dose were comparable in the two groups. In conclusion, the response to intravenous calcitriol therapy in dialysis patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism is heterogeneous, consisting of patients who are either responsive or refractory to treatment; refractoriness can be predicted by parathyroid volume and calcium set point.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-712
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1996


  • calcitriol
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • parathyroid function
  • parathyroid hormone
  • set point for calcium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology

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