Objective: To assess the natural history of "growth" in bone mineral density (BMD) in children and adolescents with moderate to severe cerebral palsy (CP).
Study design: A prospective, longitudinal, observational study of BMD in 69 subjects with moderate to severe spastic CP ages 2.0 to 17.7 years. Fifty-five subjects were observed for more than 2 years and 40 subjects for more than 3 years. Each evaluation also included assessments of growth, nutritional status, Tanner stage, general health, and various clinical features of CP.
Results: Lower BMD z-scores at the initial evaluation were associated with greater severity of CP as judged by gross motor function and feeding difficulty, and with poorer growth and nutrition as judged by weight z-scores. BMD increased an average of 2% to 5%/y in the distal femur and lumbar spine, but ranged widely from +42%/y to -31%. In spite of increases in BMD, distal femur BMD z-scores decrease with age in this population.
Conclusions: Children with severe CP develop over the course of their lives clinically significant osteopenia. Unlike elderly adults, this is not primarily from true losses in bone mineral, but from a rate of growth in bone mineral that is diminished relative to healthy children. The efficacy of interventions to increase BMD can truly be assessed only with a clear understanding of the expected changes in BMD without intervention.