Bone histology in steroid-treated children with non-azotemic nephrotic syndrome

Pediatr Nephrol. 2004 Apr;19(4):400-7. doi: 10.1007/s00467-003-1378-8. Epub 2004 Feb 26.


Patients with nephrotic syndrome (NS) and normal glomerular filtration rate (GFR) frequently exhibit abnormalities of calcium and vitamin D homeostasis, mainly hypocalcemia and reduced circulating vitamin D metabolites. These abnormalities have been linked to alterations of bone histology in adults with non-azotemic NS, particularly osteomalacia and excessive bone resorption. Whether similar abnormalities of bone histology occur in children and adolescents with NS, particularly in those requiring prolonged treatment with corticosteroids, remains largely unknown. Thus, bone histomorphometry and selected bone-modulating hormones were studied in eight children (aged 2-16 years) with normal GFR (range 85-169 ml/min per 1.73 m(2)) and NS. All patients received corticosteroids for at least 12 months prior to bone biopsy. At the time of bone biopsy, the urine protein/creatinine ratio was elevated (2.1+/-3.6), while the average concentrations of parathyroid hormone (36+/-13 pg/ml), 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH) D] (22+/-14 ng/ml), and 1,25(OH)(2)D (59+/-22 pg/ml) were normal. Bone histomorphometry displayed focal osteomalacia (OM) and mild increased bone resorption in most patients. The mineralization lag time, an indicator of the degree of osteomalacia, correlated with the time elapsed since the original diagnosis of NS ( r=0.93, P<0.0005). Overt hyperparathyroidism was not evident, but increased eroded perimeter and elevated bone formation rate (BFR) were evident in two patients, suggesting high-turnover bone disease. The BFR was inversely correlated with the administered dose of prednisone at the time of biopsy ( r=-0.78, P<0.05) and one patient exhibited low bone turnover changes. The growth velocity standard deviation score (SDS) at time of biopsy ranged from -1.6 to 3.2, resulting in a height SDS range of -1.9 to 0.6. The height SDS at time of bone biopsy correlated inversely with the dose of administered glucocorticoid ( r=-0.71, P<0.05) and with the duration of the disease ( r=-0.7, P=0.05). These data, albeit preliminary, demonstrate that children with NS treated with prolonged corticosteroid therapy exhibit bone histopathological changes without a concomitant impairment in GFR. While the OM appears to be related to the disease process, the alterations of bone formation and the adynamic changes are likely the result of the corticosteroid therapy. The potential consequences of these findings on adult bone mass and ultimate height deserve further studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Albuminuria / etiology
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Bone and Bones / pathology*
  • Calcium / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Creatinine / urine
  • Female
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / physiology
  • Male
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects
  • Osteomalacia / etiology
  • Parathyroid Hormone / blood
  • Phosphates / blood
  • Proteinuria / etiology
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives*
  • Vitamin D / blood


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Parathyroid Hormone
  • Phosphates
  • Vitamin D
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D
  • Creatinine
  • Calcium