Vertebral bone mineral density changes in female rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with low-dose methotrexate

Clin Exp Rheumatol. May-Jun 2000;18(3):327-31.


Objective: To assess vertebral bone mineral density (BMD) changes in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients taking low-dose methotrexate (MTX).

Methods: We evaluated in a 2-year, longitudinal study female RA patients, who had recently started a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD), divided into two groups: group A, receiving MTX, and group B, receiving other DMARDs. Lumbar spine BMD was assessed at baseline and every year; RA activity was assessed every 3 months.

Results: Sixty-two patients were enrolled in the study; 40 completed the follow-up period: 22 of group A, and 18 of group B. The results after 2 years showed that both groups lost bone significantly vs baseline (p < 0.001) in a comparable fashion: group A (mean +/- SD) -3.9 +/- 4.9% vs group B -3.0 +/- 3.7% (p = NS). The patients who showed active disease lost significantly (p < 0.05) more bone (-5.5 +/- 3.8%) than those with less active disease (-1.1 +/- 3.6%), independently of their DMARD.

Conclusion: Low-dose MTX in RA does not seem to exert relevant effects on trabecular bone.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Methotrexate / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / pathology
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Methotrexate