1. Chemical and morphological features of uraemic bone disease were studied by comparison of bone composition in 44 patients with uraemia (12 dialysed and 32 non-dialysed) and 36 control subjects. The significant changes included decreased bone mineral carbonate associated with calcium, a concomitant increase in phosphate, and an increase in magnesium. There was also an increase in osteoid and a reduction in the specific gravity of the compact bone.
2. The most marked changes in bone composition were observed in patients with uraemia of more than 1 year's duration, who had been dialysed. Bone mineral sodium concentrations were not significantly altered in any group.
3. The changes in bone mineral composition appeared to be the result of several simultaneous and/or successive mechanisms: (i) loss of fixed base, calcium carbonate; (ii) replacement of carbonate by phosphate; (iii) the addition of immature bone mineral, which contains high concentrations of phosphate and relatively low concentrations of carbonate.
4. These observations are consistent with earlier views of the bone salt as an indefinite calcium/phosphate/carbonate complex. Variations in bone composition may arise from a reciprocal relationship between phosphate and carbonate. The bone mineral analogue that best explains these variations in bone composition is octacalcium phosphate carbonate [Ca4(PO4)2(HPO4)x(CO3)1-x,zH2O].