Objective: Osteopenia/osteoporosis is being increasingly reported as a complication of many chronic diseases, even in children. In this preliminary study, we evaluated the effect of an oral bisphosphonate (alendronate) on bone mass in children with diffuse connective tissue diseases.
Methods: Thirty-eight children with low bone mass were treated with alendronate for 1 year; 38 children who had the same primary disorders as the study patients but in a less severe form served as untreated control patients. We were also able to evaluate changes in bone mass (before and after alendronate) in 16 of the treated patients whose bone mineral density (BMD) had been routinely measured before the present study was initiated.
Results: BMD increased by a mean +/- SD of 14.9 +/- 9.8% (P < 0.002 versus baseline) in the treated patients (reaching the normal range in 13 patients), while the BMD was 2.6 +/- 5% (not significant versus baseline) in the control group (15 had a decrease). Most interestingly, there was a large increase in BMD (15.3 +/-9.9%) after alendronate therapy in the 16 children who had their BMD followed up in the year before the study, during which time they had shown little increase in BMD (1.03 +/- 6.3%), and often a decrease. Considering their condition, increases in the height of all patients was satisfactory. No new fractures were observed after alendronate therapy was initiated.
Conclusion: Bisphosphonates can be considered essential components of the treatment of secondary osteoporosis, not only in adults, but also in pediatric patients. Alendronate has a positive effect on secondary osteopenia/osteoporosis in children with connective tissue diseases.