BACKGROUND: Metastatic pulmonary calcification, a complication of uraemia and disordered calcium metabolism, may be diffuse or localised. The factors that determine calcium precipitation are complex, but tissue alkalosis is thought to be important. As obstruction of the pulmonary artery theoretically causes local alkalosis a retrospective necropsy study was carried out to examine the relation between metastatic pulmonary calcification and vascular obstruction. METHODS: Five patients with focal and two with diffuse metastatic calcification in the lungs were identified over eight years. Lungs were studied macroscopically and by light microscopy, haematoxylin and eosin and histochemical stains being used for calcium. RESULTS: Underlying risk factors for calcification in these patients included renal failure in six and disseminated malignancy in five. In the five patients with localised calcification obstruction of the pulmonary artery by thrombus or tumour was found proximal or adjacent to areas of calcium deposition. In two patients metastatic calcification was confined to a lung with unilateral pulmonary artery thromboembolic occlusion. Calcification was not specifically associated with infarction, pneumonia, or diffuse alveolar damage. Lesions of the pulmonary artery were not seen in the two patients with diffuse bilateral metastatic calcification. CONCLUSION: In this small series there was a spatial association between pulmonary artery obstruction and localised metastatic calcification. It is proposed that pulmonary artery obstruction alters the microchemical environment of the lung, favouring tissue alkalosis and thereby enhancing parenchymal calcification in patients predisposed to this condition.
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