With a growing number of primary-care patients being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), providers should be aware that abnormal calcium levels may increase the risk of premature death in CKD patients who are not on dialysis, according to recent research. Abnormal calcium levels have already been linked to a greater likelihood of premature death in dialysis patients.

In a study of 1,243 male U.S. veterans with moderate-to-advanced CKD that did not require dialysis therapy, the mortality risk for patients who had abnormally high calcium levels for a prolonged period was 31% greater than that of the individuals with normal blood calcium levels. Patients with low calcium levels for shorter periods were 21% more likely to die than their counterparts with normal blood calcium levels. According to the investigators, the findings point to the potential importance of finding drugs or other treatments that maintain normal blood calcium levels in kidney patients who are not on dialysis.

“Chronic hypercalcemia and acute hypercalcemia are both associated with increased mortality in male patients with moderate and advanced [non-dialysis-dependent] CKD,” the authors concluded. “Thus, maintaining normal serum calcium levels may be beneficial in this patient population, but prospective studies will be needed to determine what the target range for serum calcium should be and how such a target should be achieved to derive the best therapeutic potential.” The study was published online ahead of print by Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology on January 7, 2010.

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