Aluminum accumulation in plasma and tissues is a well-described complication among persons undergoing peritoneal dialysis or hemodialysis. Excess bone aluminum is associated with low bone formation rates and increased risk for fractures. Current recommendations for care of patients with end-stage renal disease include screening for aluminum toxicity with plasma aluminum levels; patients with levels below 40 microg/L are considered to be at low risk for aluminum bone disease (ABD). We examined data from the Toronto Renal Osteodystrophy Study to evaluate the performance of plasma aluminum levels in screening for ABD. Two hundred fifty-eight unselected patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis (n = 143) or hemodialysis (n = 115) underwent diagnostic bone biopsy and measurement of plasma aluminum level. Sixty-nine patients (26.7%) were identified as having ABD, defined as low or normal bone formation rates with 25% or more bone surface aluminum staining. Plasma aluminum level was strongly associated with the presence of ABD; the odds ratio was 1.4 for each increase of 10 microg/L (95%CI, 1.2, 1.6). However, only 50.1% of patients with a plasma aluminum level of 40 microg/L or greater had ABD, whereas 14.2% of patients with a level below this threshold also had ABD. Using this cutoff level of 40 microg/L, the sensitivity and specificity were 65.2% and 76.7%, respectively. We conclude that although there is a correlation between high aluminum levels and ABD, a patient's plasma aluminum level does not predict well the presence of ABD in spite of a relatively high prevalence of disease.
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