Bone loss in long-term renal transplantation: histopathology and densitometry analysis

Kidney Int. 1999 May;55(5):2021-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.1999.00445.x.


Background: There is little information of the spectrum and factors implicated in the bone loss in long-term renal transplantation, and virtually no data using both histomorphometric and densitometric analysis.

Methods: Twenty-three males and 22 females (13 postmenopausal) were studied with a bone biopsy and densitometry. Sixteen patients were on cyclosporine A monotherapy, 20 on azathioprine + prednisolone, and 9 on cyclosporine A + prednisolone or triple therapy. The mean time after transplantation was 127 +/- 70 months.

Results: No group had a significant decrease in bone mineral density (BMD) of the axial skeleton compared with an age- and sex-matched normal population. Compared with sex-matched young controls, osteopenia was observed in all groups at the femoral neck (except premenopausal women and triple therapy) and in the triple-therapy group at the L1-L4 spine region. At the distal radius, osteopenia was found in all the groups. Histopathological diagnosis was mixed uremic osteodystrophy in 46.5%, adynamic bone in 23.2%, hyperparathyroid disease in 13.9%, and normal bone in 16.3%. The diagnosis was not different according to immunosuppressive therapy, but men tended to show more mixed uremic bone disease. There was no significant difference in BMD between histopathological subtypes. In general, patients showed slight osteoclast function increase, osteoblast function decrease, and marked retardation of dynamic parameters. The cyclosporine A monotherapy group had a significantly lower appositional rate than azathioprine + prednisolone. Men had a significantly lower bone volume than women, and premenopausal women had a significantly lower mineralizing surface than postmenopausal women and men. In the multivariate analysis, male gender, time after transplantation, old age, and time on dialysis prior to transplantation were significant predictive factors for a negative effect on bone mass.

Conclusions: Long-term renal transplant-patients showed reduced BMD in both trabecular and cortical bone. This reduction in BMD was not as severe as in short-term reports and was associated with osteoclast stimulation, osteoblast suppression, and retardation of mineral apposition and bone formation rates. Bone mass loss was not different between the immunosuppression therapy groups. Male gender and age were the strongest predictive factors for low bone mass.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic* / complications
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic* / pathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cyclosporine / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / surgery
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoclasts / drug effects
  • Postmenopause
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage
  • Premenopause
  • Sex Factors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Cyclosporine
  • Prednisolone
  • Azathioprine