We report on a 5-year, prospective, double-blind trial of 1,25 dihydroxycholecalciferol (calcitriol) versus placebo in 76 hemodialysis patients without biochemical or radiological evidence of bone disease. Calcitriol, 1 microgram daily, regularly induced hypercalcemia. Doses of 0.25 microgram daily or less proved satisfactory in most patients. During calcitriol treatment, plasma calcium concentration was significantly higher and serum parathyroid hormone concentration significantly lower than on placebo. There was no difference in the rates of development or of progression of vascular calcification in the two groups. Significantly more patients on placebo (17 vs. 6, p less than 0.05) developed a sustained elevation of plasma alkaline phosphatase concentration. Calcitriol appeared to protect against the development of histological evidence of osteitis fibrosa but not of osteomalacia, but accumulation of aluminum in bone occurred during the study. We conclude that calcitriol delays and may prevent the development of osteitis fibrosa in patients receiving regular hemodialysis and may reasonably be prescribed routinely in hemodialysis patients without biochemical or radiological abnormality, unless there is a substantial prospect of early renal transplantation.
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