BACKGROUND: The risk of cardiovascular disease is tremendously high in dialysis patients. Dialysis patients treated with vitamin D analogs show decreased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality compared with untreated patients. We examined the influence of two common vitamin D analogs, alfacalcidol and paricalcitol, on important cardiovascular biomarkers in hemodialysis patients. Anti-inflammatory effects and the influence on regulators of vascular calcification as well as markers of heart failure were examined. METHODS: In 57 chronic hemodialysis patients enrolled in a randomized crossover trial comparing paricalcitol and alfacalcidol, we examined the changes in osteoprotegerin, fetuin-A, NT-proBNP, hs-Crp, IL-6 and TNF-α, during 16 weeks of treatment. RESULTS: NT-proBNP and osteoprotegerin increased comparably in the paricalcitol and alfacalcidol-treated groups. Fetuin-A increased significantly in the alfacalcidol-treated group compared with the paricalcitol-treated group (difference 32.84 μmol/l (95% C.I.; range 0.21-67.47)) during the first treatment period. No difference was found between the groups during the second treatment period, and IL-6, TNF-α and hs-Crp were unchanged in both treatment groups. CONCLUSIONS: Paricalcitol and alfacalcidol modulate regulators of vascular calcification. Alfacalcidol may increase the level of the calcification inhibitor fetuin-A. We did not find any anti-inflammatory effect or difference in changes of NT-proBNP. TRIAL REGISTRY: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00469599 May 3 2007.