Osteoporosis in chronically ill children

Ann Med. 2005;37(4):286-94. doi: 10.1080/07853890510007250.


Gains in bone mass are very rapid during adolescence and peak bone mass, the most important determinant of osteoporosis, is attained by early adulthood. Glucocorticoids, widely used in children with chronic illness, are known to impact bone mass and quality. In addition, disease and treatment-related factors, nutrient and hormone deficiencies and decreased physical activity may all negatively affect bone mass accrual. Although decreased bone density is increasingly recognized in chronically ill children, current knowledge of the epidemiology, diagnosis and optimal treatment of pediatric secondary osteoporosis is limited. In addition to bone densitometry, biochemical and radiographic tests should be used in the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Bone histomorphometry may be needed in selected situations. At risk children should be advised to ensure sufficient calcium and vitamin D intake and weight bearing physical activity. Growth and pubertal development require careful assessment because of their close correlation with bone formation. Given limited experience with bisphosphonates, it seems prudent to target antiresorptive therapy to those children who have developed symptomatic disease. Ideally this should be done in controlled settings. Early identification and adequate intervention, in selected cases with bisphosphonates, is needed in order to prevent deleterious skeletal complications of osteoporosis in chronically ill children.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Bone Density
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis* / diagnosis
  • Osteoporosis* / etiology
  • Risk Factors