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Calcinosis Cutis Workup

  • Author: Julia R Nunley, MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 08, 2016

Laboratory Studies

Tests of serum calcium, inorganic phosphate, alkaline phosphatase, and albumin levels may be helpful. An elevation in serum calcium and alkaline phosphatase levels with a decrease in the inorganic phosphate level is suggestive of hyperparathyroidism. One can further calculate the calcium-phosphate product to determine if the threshold of 70 mg2/dL2 is exceeded. An albumin value is needed to interpret the significance of hypocalcemia or hypercalcemia. Calcium is highly protein bound, and abnormalities in the albumin concentration may cause clinically insignificant abnormalities of calcium concentration.

Additionally, note the following:

  • Serum blood urea nitrogen and creatinine concentrations can be obtained to measure renal function.
  • On the complete blood cell count with differential, hematologic abnormalities may suggest an underlying malignancy or lupus erythematosus.
  • If milk-alkali is suspected, the plasma bicarbonate or arterial pH value may indicate the presence of a metabolic alkalosis.
  • The parathyroid hormone concentration is a direct measurement for hyperparathyroidism.
  • Creatine kinase and aldolase value may be significantly abnormal in cases of dermatomyositis, myositis, or rhabdomyolysis.
  • Serum amylase or lipase levels are markers of pancreatic disease.
  • Antinuclear antibody testing is helpful in screening for lupus erythematosus.
  • In patients with scleroderma, the presence of SCL-70 (topoisomerase) antibody portends a poor prognosis.
  • Vitamin D levels should be determined to evaluate the possibility of vitamin D excess or deficiency.[20]
  • A test of the 24–hour urinary excretion of calcium and/or inorganic phosphate may be useful.

Imaging Studies

Radiographic examination may demonstrate the extent of tissue calcification.

Bone scintigraphy with radiolabeled phosphate compounds (technetium Tc 99m methylene diphosphonate [MDP]) is useful in evaluating nonvisceral soft tissue calcification; this test is more sensitive than plain radiography.[21, 22]

CT allows for the identification of visceral and nonvisceral calcification. CT is infrequently used in evaluating calcinosis cutis and primarily used in assessing tumoral calcinosis.

MRI is of limited utility in evaluating calcified structures, but calcific deposits have characteristic patterns. The granulomatous foreign body reaction in tumoral calcinosis is evident.



Findings on biopsy and histopathologic examination of a cutaneous lesion are diagnostic.

Results of fine-needle aspiration cytology of a skin nodule may also be diagnostic.


Histologic Findings

On biopsy, granules and deposits of calcium are seen in the dermis, with or without a surrounding foreign-body giant cell reaction. Alternatively, massive calcium deposits may be located in the subcutaneous tissue. In areas of necrosis, calcium deposition is frequently found within the walls of small and medium-sized blood vessels. Calcium deposition may be confirmed on Von Kossa and alizarin red stains.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Julia R Nunley, MD Professor, Program Director, Dermatology Residency, Department of Dermatology, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center

Julia R Nunley, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, American Society of Nephrology, International Society of Nephrology, Medical Dermatology Society, Medical Society of Virginia, National Kidney Foundation, Phi Beta Kappa, Women's Dermatologic Society

Disclosure: Serve(d) as a director, officer, partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for: American Board of Dermatology<br/>Co-Editor for the text Dermatological Manifestations of Kidney Disease .

Specialty Editor Board

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Rosalie Elenitsas, MD Herman Beerman Professor of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; Director, Penn Cutaneous Pathology Services, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Health System

Rosalie Elenitsas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, American Society of Dermatopathology, Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Received royalty from Lippincott Williams Wilkins for textbook editor.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

James W Patterson, MD Professor of Pathology and Dermatology, Director of Dermatopathology, University of Virginia Medical Center

James W Patterson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, American Society of Dermatopathology, Royal Society of Medicine, Society for Investigative Dermatology, United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Lydia M E Jones, MD Staff Physician, Department of Dermatology, Virginia Commonwealth University

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Calcinosis cutis appearing as an indurated and nodular subcutaneous plaque in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus.
Ulceration of a lesion of calcinosis cutis in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus.
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