1. To determine whether the multiple changes in the blood chemistry profile induced by calcitriol may be conducive to secondary systemic oxalosis we have studied nine patients on regular dialysis treatment under three different regimens: (1) oral calcitriol, 0.25 μg/daily for at least 6 months. (2) off calcitriol, a 1-month withdrawal of the drug, taken as the baseline study period; (3) intravenous calcitriol, 1 μg three times weekly at the end of dialysis, with tests performed at 1 and 3 months from initiation.
2. Serum concentrations were measured pre- and post-dialysis at the end of each study period. The whole dialysate was used for the determination of the overall calcium and oxalate removal by dialysis. The degree of saturation with calcium oxalate mono-hydrate was estimated by a computer program. Serum calcitriol concentrations were also assessed.
3. Total and ionized serum calcium did not change on average, although mild hypercalcaemia developed in some patients on intravenous calcitriol. There was an increase in plasma level of oxalate during both oral and intravenous calcitriol treatment, but this was less pronounced during intravenous therapy. Removal of oxalate by dialysis was also greater in patients on oral calcitriol.
4. These increases were probably originated from intestinal absorption and secondary to hyper-absorption of dietary calcium. Consequently, the degree of saturation with calcium oxalate before dialysis rose during calcitriol treatment, irrespective of the route of administration.
5. These results emphasize that, in addition to soft tissue calcification due to calcium phosphates, ectopic calcium oxalate crystallization must also be viewed as a potential risk associated with long-term administration of calcitriol.