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Histopathology. 2001 Jun;38(6):571-83.

Histomorphometric assessment of bone turnover in uraemic patients: comparison between activation frequency and bone formation rate.

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Department of Experimental Medicine and Pathology, Section of Pathological Anatomy, 'La Sapienza' University of Rome, Italy.



The histomorphometric assessment of bone formation rate (BFR/BS) in bone biopsies from uraemic patients is of crucial importance in differentiating low from high turnover types of renal osteodystrophy. However, since BFR/BS relies on osteoblasts, activation frequency (Ac.f), encompassing all remodelling phases, has recently been preferred to BFR/BS. This study was carried out to consider whether estimation of Ac.f is superior, in practical terms, to that of BFR/BS in distinguishing between different rates of bone turnover in uraemic patients.


Bone biopsies from 27 patients in predialysis (20 men and seven women; mean age 53 +/- 12 years) and 37 in haemodialysis (22 men and 15 women; mean age 53 +/- 12 years) were examined. The types of renal osteodystrophy were classified on the basis of morphology. Bone formation rate and Ac.f were evaluated according to standardized procedures. The Ac.f was calculated both as a ratio between BFR/BS and wall thickness (W.Th) and as a reciprocal of erosion, formation and quiescent periods (EP, FP and QP). Patients were affected by renal osteodystrophy with predominant hyperparathyroidism (two predialysis and 16 dialysis), predominant osteomalacia (three predialysis and seven dialysis) or that of advanced (nine predialysis and five dialysis) or mild (seven predialysis and four dialysis) mixed type or adynamic type (six predialysis and five dialysis). Activation frequency, which with either formula requires the measurement of W.Th, i.e. the thickness of bone structural units (BSUs), was not calculated in three dialysis patients with severe hyperparathyroidism and in one predialysis and four dialysis patients with severe osteomalacia, because only incomplete BSUs were found. In dialysis, EP was higher in the adynamic than in the other types of osteodystrophy. During both predialysis and dialysis, FP was higher in osteomalacia than in the other forms of osteodystrophy, and in adynamic osteopathy than in hyperparathyroidism or in advanced and mild mixed osteodystrophy. During predialysis and dialysis, QP was higher in the adynamic than in the other forms of osteodystrophy. Correlations were found between BFR/BS and Ac.f, during predialysis (r=0.97) and dialysis (r=0.95).


The superiority of Ac.f in assessing bone turnover, in comparison to BFR/BS, is conceptual rather than practical. The highest values for FP in osteomalacia and for QP in adynamic bone allow a clearer characterization of these low turnover conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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