Interventions for metabolic bone disease in children with chronic kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) resulting in reduced kidney function and the need for dialysis and kidney transplant is associated with abnormalities in serum calcium and phosphorus levels leading to high levels of the parathyroid hormone (PTH) and to bone disease. This may result in bone deformities, bone pain, fractures and reduced growth rates. Commonly used treatments (vitamin D compounds and phosphate binders) aim to prevent or correct these outcomes. However, these treatments may raise levels of blood calcium, allow calcium and phosphorus deposition in blood vessels and lead to early cardiovascular disease, which is known to be a problem in adults with CKD.

This review identified 18 small randomised studies involving 576 children comparing different vitamin D compounds administered via different routes and frequencies and different phosphate binders. Only five studies reported growth rates and no differences were detected between treatments. Bone disease, as assessed by changes in PTH levels, was improved by all vitamin D preparations regardless of preparation or route or frequency of administration. Fewer episodes of high blood calcium levels occurred with the non-calcium-containing binder, sevelamer, compared with calcium-containing binders. As newer treatments for renal bone disease are developed, comparisons with the current standard therapies will be required in well-designed randomised studies in children using outcome measures including those of direct clinical relevance to children and their families such as rates of growth, reduction in bone fractures and bone pain and reduction in calcification in blood vessels.

Authors' conclusions: 

Bone disease, assessed by changes in PTH levels, is improved by all vitamin D preparations. However, no consistent differences between routes of administration, frequencies of dosing or vitamin D preparations were demonstrated. Although fewer episodes of high calcium levels occurred with the non-calcium-containing phosphate binder, sevelamer, compared with calcium-containing binders, there were no differences in serum phosphorus and calcium overall and phosphorus values were reduced to similar extents. All studies were small with few data available on patient-centred outcomes (growth, bone deformities) and limited data on biochemical parameters or bone histology resulting in considerable imprecision of results thus limiting the applicability to the care of children with CKD.

Read the full abstract...

Bone disease is common in children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and when untreated may result in bone deformities, bone pain, fractures and reduced growth rates. This is an update of a review first published in 2010.


This review aimed to examine the benefits (improved growth rates, reduced risk of bone fractures and deformities, reduction in PTH levels) and harms (hypercalcaemia, blood vessel calcification, deterioration in kidney function) of interventions (including vitamin D preparations and phosphate binders) for the prevention and treatment of metabolic bone disease in children with CKD.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Kidney and Transplant Specialised Register to 8 September 2015 through contact with the Trial's Search Co-ordinator using search terms relevant for this review.

Selection criteria: 

We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing different interventions used to prevent or treat bone disease in children with CKD stages 2 to 5D.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data were assessed for study eligibility, risk of bias and extracted independently by two authors. Results were reported as risk ratios (RR) or risk differences (RD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for dichotomous outcomes. For continuous outcomes the mean difference (MD) or standardised mean difference (SMD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) was used. Statistical analyses were performed using the random-effects model.

Main results: 

This review included 18 studies (576 children); three new studies were added for this update. Adequate sequence generation and allocation concealment were reported in 12 and 11 studies respectively. Only four studies reported blinding of children, investigators or outcome assessors. Nine studies were at low risk of attrition bias and 12 studies were at low risk of selective reporting bias.

Eight different interventions were compared. Two studies compared intraperitoneal (IP) with oral calcitriol. PTH levels were significantly lower with IP compared with oral calcitriol (1 study: MD -501.00 pg/mL, 95% CI -721.54 to -280.46) but the number of children with abnormal bone histology did not differ between treatments. Three studies compared intermittent with daily oral calcitriol. The change in mean height SDS (1 study: MD 0.13, 95% CI -0.22 to 0.48) and the percentage fall in parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels at eight weeks (1 study: MD -5.50%, 95% CI -32.37 to 21.37) and 12 months (1 study: MD -6.00% 95% CI -25.27 to 13.27) did not differ between treatments.

Four studies compared active vitamin D preparations (calcitriol, paricalcitol, 1α-hydroxyvitamin D) with placebo or no specific treatment. One study reported vitamin D preparations significantly reduced PTH levels (-55.00 pmol/L, 95% CI -83.03 to -26.97). There was no significant difference in hypercalcaemia risk with vitamin D preparations compared with placebo or no specific treatment (4 studies, 103 children: RD 0.08 mg/dL, 95% CI -0.08 to 0.24). However, there was heterogeneity (I2 = 55%) with one study showing a significantly greater risk of hypercalcaemia with intravenous (IV) calcitriol administration. Two studies (97 children) compared calcitriol with other vitamin D preparations and both found no significant differences in growth between preparations.

Two studies compared ergocalciferol in patients with CKD and vitamin D deficiency. Elevated PTH levels developed significantly later in ergocalciferol treated children (1 study: hazard ratio 0.30, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.93) though the number with elevated PTH levels did not differ between groups (1 study, 40 children: RR 0.33, 95% CI 0.11 to 1.05).

Two studies compared calcium carbonate with aluminium hydroxide as phosphate binders. One study (17 children: MD -0.86 SDS, 95% CI -2.24 to 0.52) reported no significant difference in mean final height SDS between treatments. Three studies compared sevelamer with calcium-containing phosphate binders. There were no significant differences in the final calcium, phosphorus or PTH levels between binders. More episodes of hypercalcaemia occurred with calcium-containing binders. One study reported no significant differences between calcitriol and doxercalciferol in bone histology or biochemical parameters.