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J Clin Invest. 1985 Dec;76(6):2403-12.

Irreversible bone loss in osteomalacia. Comparison of radial photon absorptiometry with iliac bone histomorphometry during treatment.


We examined the relationships between the changes in bone mineral deficit in the radius, determined by single-energy photon absorptiometry at standard proximal and distal sites, and in the ilium, determined by bone histomorphometry, during the treatment of osteomalacia of diverse etiology in 28 patients. In the ilium, relative osteoid volume decreased by 75-80% in both cortical bone (from 6.0% to 1.5%) and trabecular bone (from 30.1% to 6.6%) during a mean treatment duration of 2 yr. There was also a significant fall in iliac cortical porosity from 10.3% to 7.8%. As a result, mineralized bone volume increased by 7.5% in cortical and by 40.1% in trabecular bone; the cortical and trabecular increments were correlated (r = 0.69, P less than 0.001). The properly weighted increase for the entire tissue sample was 18.6%. By contrast, there was no change in bone mineral at either radial site, although there was a 2% increase at both sites when allowance was made for age-related bone loss during treatment. The proximal and distal age-adjusted increments was correlated (r = 0.76, P less than 0.001), but there was no correlation between the changes in any photon absorptiometric and any histomorphometric index. In that iliac cortical bone turnover in normal subjects was 7.2%/yr, we estimated the rate of bone turnover to be less than 2%/yr at both proximal and distal radial sites, including any trabecular bone present at the distal site. Compared to appropriate control subjects, the bone mineral deficits fell during treatment from 19.2% to 17.1% at the proximal radius (greater than 95% cortical bone) and from 20.5% to 18.5% at the distal radius (greater than 75% cortical bone). In the ilium the deficits, assuming attainment of normal values for osteoid volume and cortical porosity, fell from 41.7% to 36.1% in cortical and from 31.5% to 6.3% in trabecular bone, the properly weighted combined deficit falling from 38.6% to 27.7%. The irreversible iliac cortical deficit was entirely due to cortical thinning because of increased net endosteal resorption; the resultant expansion of the marrow cavity offset the modest loss of fractional trabecular mineralized bone. We conclude: in osteomalacia there is a large irreversible and a small reversible bone mineral deficit at both proximal and distal radial sites, in similar proportion to the iliac cortex but of smaller magnitude; the anatomic basis of the irreversible bone mineral deficit at all three sites that persists despite correction of the mineralization defect by appropriate treatment is thinning of cortical bone, most likely owing to prolonged secondary hyperparathyroidism; (c) there is no evidence that the proportion of trabecular bone in the distal radius at any site proximal to the radioulnar joint has any relevance to the interpretation of measurements made at that site; (d) there are at least three functional subdivisions of trabecular bone depending on proximity to hematopoietic marrow, fatty marrow, or synovium; and (e) single photon absorptiometry of the radius is an excellent method for measuring cortical bone mass in the appendicular skeleton, but is of little value for the assessment of changes in trabecular bone status.

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