Mammograms May Help Assess Heart Risk in Kidney Disease Patients

Mammogram heart disease

Routine mammograms not only help early detection of breast cancer, but may also be useful in detecting calcifications in the blood vessels of patients with advanced kidney disease, according to a new study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).

Patients with Kidney Disease at Greater Risk of Arterial Calcium Deposits

Chronic kidney dysfunction and chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an independent risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease. Patients with CKD are more likely to suffer from atherosclerosis and heart failure. Kidney patients with cardiovascular disease have also been shown to have a poorer prognosis.

Arterial calcium deposits may contribute to a high rate of heart disease in patients with CKD and end-stage renal disease (ESRD). These calcifications can occur in various locations of the blood vessels, with those occurring in the middle or “medial” layer being associated to stiffer arteries (atherosclerosis). Calcification in atherosclerosis is associated with ruptured plaques that can lead to coronary events such as heart attack.

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Dr. W. Charles O’Neill of Emory University in Atlanta examined samples of breast artery tissue from 16 women with chronic kidney disease. All samples showed medial calcifications of the artery.


The researchers then reviewed the routine mammograms of 71 women with end-stage disease. They found breast arterial calcifications in 63% of patients compared to just 17% of control cases, a group of matched women without kidney disease.

More than 90 percent of women with calcifications of the breast artery also had evidence of medical calcifications in other blood vessels.

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Since most women with CKD are at an age where yearly mammograms are recommended, the procedure may be a useful tool for studying the development and progression of medical calcification. "Breast arterial calcification is a specific and useful marker of medial vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease, and its prevalence is markedly increased in ESRD and advanced CKD," the researchers write.

Early identification and treatment might help to lower the associated risk of cardiovascular disease.

Source Reference:
“Breast Arterial Calcification: A Marker of Medial Vascular Calcification in Chronic Kidney Disease,” (doi 10.2215/CJN.07190810), online at on January 20, 2011


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