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Calcinosis: pathophysiology and management

Valenzuela, Antonia; Chung, Lorinda

Current Opinion in Rheumatology: November 2015 - Volume 27 - Issue 6 - p 542–548
doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000220

Purpose of review This article reviews the most updated literature regarding the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of calcinosis cutis in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc).

Recent findings Our review identified observational studies that describe the frequency of calcinosis in SSc and associated clinical features, genetic studies in animal models of heritable disorders leading to calcium deposition, and case series and case reports describing new diagnostic approaches and therapeutic interventions.

Summary Calcinosis cutis is the deposition of calcium in the skin and subcutaneous tissues. It affects almost one quarter of patients with SSc, and is associated with longer disease duration, digital ulcers, acroosteolysis, positive anticentromere antibody, and positive anti-PM/Scl antibody. Local trauma, chronic inflammation, and vascular hypoxia have been proposed as potential pathomechanisms. The development of mouse models that mimic heritable ectopic mineralization disorders are contributing to the understanding of the process of calcification. Diagnosis can be made clinically or with plain radiography. Experimental diagnostic studies include ultrasonography, multidetector computed tomography, and dual-energy computed tomography. Several pharmacologic therapies have been tried for calcinosis with variable results, but surgical excision of calcium deposits remains the mainstay of treatment.

Division of Immunology and Rheumatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, USA

Correspondence to Lorinda Chung, MD, MS, Department of Immunology and Rheumatology, Stanford University School of Medicine, 1000 Welch Road, Suite 203 MC 5755, Palo Alto, CA 94304, USA. Tel: +1 650 493 5000 x62042; fax: +1 650 849 1213; e-mail:

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