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Calcinosis in rheumatic diseases.

BACKGROUND: Calcinosis, or dystrophic soft-tissue calcification, occurs in damaged or devitalized tissues in the presence of normal calcium/phosphorus metabolism. It is often noted in the subcutaneous tissues of connective tissues diseases--primarily systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, or dermatomyositis--and may involve a relatively localized area or be widespread. The calcinotic accumulations may lead secondarily to muscle atrophy, joint contractures, and skin ulceration complicated by recurrent episodes of local inflammation and infection.

OBJECTIVES: To review the classification, pathogenesis, clinical features, and treatment of calcinosis in rheumatic diseases.

METHOD: A MEDLINE search of articles from 1972 to 2004 was conducted utilizing the index word "calcinosis" with the coindexing terms "scleroderma," "lupus," "dermatomyositis," and "dystrophic calcification."

RESULTS: Calcinosis may be the source of both pain and disability in connective tissue disease patients. Illustrative cases of patients with severe calcinosis are described. The literature available was critically reviewed. While warfarin, colchicine, probenecid, bisphosphonates, diltiazem, minocycline, aluminum hydroxide, salicylate, surgical extirpation, and carbon dioxide laser therapies have been used, no treatment has convincingly prevented or reduced calcinosis.

CONCLUSIONS: Calcinosis is common in the conditions reviewed and a number of agents have been used for treatment. However, the approach to calcinosis management is disorganized, beginning with the lack of a generally accepted classification and continuing with a lack of systematic study and clinical therapeutic trials.

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