Background: Bone mineral density (BMD) decreases significantly early after renal transplantation. This prospective study was designed to evaluate the long-term lumbar BMD development.
Methods: Sixty-three renal-transplant recipients (mean age 44 +/- 12 years, 37 [59%] male) underwent serial yearly posttransplant laboratory parameter and BMD measurements of the lumbar spine (dual energy x-ray absorptiometry). Combined maintenance immunosuppression included prednisolone in 95% of patients. The minimum number of consecutive scans was three; the maximum number seven (n = 15). Examinations were performed between 3 +/- 2 and 68 +/- 4 months posttransplant.
Results: BMD was significantly lower compared with healthy controls at all times after transplantation. t scores were below -1. BMD development revealed a biphasic pattern: between 3 +/- 2 and 10 +/- 2 months, a significant BMD decrease of -0.016 +/- 0.055 g/cm2 (-1.6%, P = 0.024) occurred. Later, a moderate increase resulting in BMD stability until the sixth year posttransplant was detected. Within the first year, posttransplant osteocalcin (from 19 +/- 15 to 32 +/- 23 microg/L) and calcitriol (from 24 +/- 15 to 43 +/- 24 ng/L) displayed a significant increase. Compared with patients with a pronounced decrease, patients with a substantial increase in early posttransplant BMD had a lower baseline BMD (0.989 +/- 0.131 vs. 1.149 +/- 0.202 g/cm2 [P = 0.0122]) and lower creatinine levels (105 +/- 23 vs. 141 +/- 53 mmol/L [P = 0.0227]).
Conclusion: Our study confirms a significant decrease of lumbar BMD early after renal transplantation. Bone loss was less pronounced than previously described. The longitudinal follow-up verifies a previously assumed biphasic lumbar BMD development: after the first year, no further significant bone loss occurred, and bone density remained relatively stable at significantly lower levels compared with healthy controls.