Background: Fracture is a disabling clinical outcome after transplantation, but there is little histopathological information on long-term renal recipients with severe osteopenia.
Methods: Twenty kidney recipients (8.3+/-1.9 years after transplantation), 13 males and 7 females (five postmenopausal) with nearly normal renal function, affected by severe osteopenia (T-score: males= -4.9+/-0.28; females= -5.08+/-0.47) underwent bone biopsy and morphometric X-ray absorptiometry to evaluate vertebral fractures.
Results: Histopathological diagnosis was osteoporosis-osteopenia in seven patients, osteitis fibrosa in six, prevalent osteomalacic lesion in six, and "normal" bone in one patient. Significant increases in osteoid volume (OV/BV), osteoid surface, osteoblastic surface (ObS/BS) and osteoid thickness were observed. OV/BV and Obs/BS ratios were inversely correlated to cumulative doses of MPRED (r2=0.85 P<.0001 for both ratios), whereas age, sex, time after transplantation, iPTH levels, and cumulative cyclosporine A dose were not related to osteoblastic indices. Osteoclast surface was slightly increased. Widened mineralization lag times were observed, with normalcy of the bone formation rate. Half of the patients showed fractured vertebrae. No differences in T scores were found when patients were subdivided into groups "with" or "without" vertebral fractures. A higher prevalence of fractures was observed in patients with osteoporosis-osteopenia compared to other osteopathies (P<0.02). No relationships between bone volume versus T-scores were observed.
Conclusions: In long-term renal transplant recipients, severe osteopenia does not predict osteoporosis alone. The main abnormality we found was an increase in osteoblastic activity with a slight mineralization defect. The heterogeneous bone illness we observed would suggest performing bone biopsy in these patients.