Introduction: Osteopenia and osteoporosis are frequent but often underestimated complications in inflammatory bowel disease. In patients with IBD, several factors could contribute to osteopenia, but the pathogenetic mechanisms are still not completely understood. We carried out a prospective study to evaluate the prevalence and possible etiologic factors for osteopenia and subsequent osteoporosis in IBD-patients.
Methods: 140 patients with inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease n = 125, ulcerative colitis n = 15) underwent clinical and spine radiological assessments. Lumbar bone mineral densities were measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Markers of bone formation and resorption and vitamin D were assessed in n = 95 patients. Patients were asked about medication, previous or actual intestinal stenosis, smoking and intestinal resection. A lactose-H2-breath test was undertaken if lactose intolerance was clinically suspected.
Results: Compared to age- and sex-matched healthy controls (Z-score), the prevalence of osteopenia (Z < -1) was 62%, while osteoporosis (Z < -2) occurred in 38%. The mean bone density of IBD-patients was osteopenic with no significant differences between Crohn's disease (Z = -1.24) and ulcerative colitis (Z = -1.25). Osteoporotic fractures were seen in three patients (2.1%). Crohn's disease patients with osteoporosis showed a significant lower body mass index (BMI) than patients with normal bone density. 52.9% of patients with manifest osteoporosis underwent systemic steroid treatment in the preceding year, but only 34% of those with normal bone density. Except hemoglobin, none of the biochemical markers showed a significant difference between osteoporosis, osteopenia and patients with normal bone density.
Conclusion: The results show a high prevalence of osteopenia and osteoporosis in IBD. Since osteoporosis is often associated with low body mass index, multiple intestinal resections and previous systemic steroid treatment, we suggest a bone densitometry in these patients. Since etiology of osteoporosis in IBD is multifactorious and not completely understood, there is still no standard treatment. The effect of osteoanabolic and antiresorptive agents must be evaluated in further studies.