Calcinosis is the formation of calcium deposits in any soft tissue. Calcinosis occurs in a variety of local and systemic (throughout the body) conditions.
Calcium phosphate crystals have a remarkable tendency to aggregate into snowball-like clumps and are invariably associated with particular collagens. Collagens are fibrous, insoluble proteins found in the connective tissues, including skin, bone, ligaments, and cartilage. Collagen represents about 30 percent of the total body protein.
Classification of the types of calcinosis generally separates these conditions into those that result from long-standing hypercalcemia (meaning an excessive amount of calcium in the blood) and/or hyperphosphatemia (meaning an excessive amount of phosphorus in the blood), and those following some local abnormality in the affected tissues. The classifications are metastatic calcification and dystrophic calcification, respectfully.
The most common type of calcinosis is dystrophic calcification. This type of calcification can occur as a response to any soft tissue damage, including that involved in implantation of medical devices.
Metastatic calcification involves a systemic calcium excess imbalance, which can be caused by hypercalcemia, renal failure, milk-alkali syndrome, lack or excess of other minerals, or other etiologies.
The etiology of the rare condition of tumoral calcinosis is not entirely understood. It is generally characterized by large, globular calcifications near joints.
Treatment of dystrophic calcification is varied. Numerous drugs, hormones, and a host of non-specific measures have been used unsuccessfully in the treatment of calcinosis.
Oral low-dose anti-coagulant therapy has been effective occasionally in preventing and reversing subcutaneous calcinosis.
Surgical excision of large masses may be helpful in selected instances.
Colchicine may be effective in reducing soft tissue inflammation surrounding such deposits, along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Treatment of metastatic calcification at present consists mainly of early surgical excision of the calcified masses, which rarely recur at the same site. In time, new deposits may appear around other joints.