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J Rheumatol. 2001 Mar;28(3):566-70.

Prevention of corticosteroid induced osteoporosis in inpatients recently discharged from a tertiary teaching hospital.

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  • 1Rheumatology Unit, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, Australia.



To determine the medical conditions for which oral corticosteroids are prescribed and to determine the frequency and type of osteoporosis prophylaxis offered to these patients.


Medical records of all inpatients for the period March to October 1999 who were documented in pharmacy records as either having received continuous oral steroids for at least 3 months or who had at least 4 courses of oral steroids per year were examined for the following data: age, sex, medical condition for which steroids were required, dose and duration of steroid therapy, whether they were offered bone mineral density (BMD) scans, and whether they were offered drug prophylaxis for steroid induced osteoporosis and the type of drug prophylaxis offered. Followup telephone calls were made to verify patients' use of prophylactic treatment and to validate the chronic use of oral corticosteroids. Use of BMD testing was also validated by comparing the list of patients in this study with the records of bone densitometer units in the area.


A total of 189 medical records were examined: 38% were women (n = 72) and 62% were men (n = 117), with an age range of 19-91 years; 73% were taking continuous steroid therapy, the remaining 27% had multiple courses of prednisolone through the year. Steroids were prescribed for respiratory (n = 82, 43%), rheumatological (n = 74, 39%), hematological (n = 16, 8%), dermatological (n = 8, 4%), and gastrointestinal conditions (n = 7, 4%). Chronic obstructive airway disease was the most common respiratory condition for which steroids were prescribed (77, 94%), and polymyalgia rheumatica (36%) and inflammatory arthritis (41%) were the most common rheumatological conditions for which steroids were prescribed. In total, 47% (n = 89) were offered BMD scans while 53% (n = 100) were not. Of the 100 patients not offered BMD scans, 21 (21%) were receiving some form of drug prophylaxis, while 79% of patients were not taking any form of drug prophylaxis. Prophylaxis consisted of calcitriol (64%), alendronate (11%), calcitriol and calcium (7%), calcium alone (7%), alendronate and calcium (3%), etidronate and calcium (2%), alendronate, calcitriol and calcium (1%), alendronate and calcitriol (1%), and hormone replacement therapy (4%). Rheumatologists utilized both BMD testing and prophylactic treatment twice as often in patients taking chronic oral corticosteroid treatment than other specialty physicians.


Compared to literature reports, the use of prophylaxis for corticosteroid induced osteoporosis was relatively high at this teaching hospital, with a surprisingly large number of patients receiving this treatment with no monitoring by BMD measurements.

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