Evaluation of bone mineral density in children receiving carbamazepine or valproate monotherapy

Acta Paediatr Taiwan. Nov-Dec 2007;48(6):317-22.


Background: Antiepileptic drugs have been shown to be associated with a lowering of bone mineral density in childhood and adolescence, which are critical periods of skeletal mineralization. A lower peak bone mass attained at the end of adolescence is associated with greater involutional osteoporosis and risk for fracture in the elderly. Our purpose was to evaluate the effects of carbamazepine and valproate monotherapy on bone mineral density in children in Taiwan.

Methods: From November 1995 to April 2005, forty-two children with uncomplicated epilepsy, who were treated with either carbamazepine (n=21) or valproate (n=21) monotherapy for more than 6 months, were enrolled in this study. All subjects were 5 to 18 years of age, seizure-free for 5 months or more, with normal daily activity, and normal diet. Lumbar bone mineral density of L1 to L4 was measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.

Results: The mean serum levels of carbamazepine and valproate were 5.12 +/- 2.15 mcg/ml and 49.61 +/- 20.84 mcg/ml, respectively. Treatment durations were 37.05 +/- 31.11 months and 22.86 +/- 18.84 months, respectively. The serum levels of calcium and phosphate in both groups were within therapeutic range. The serum level of alkaline phosphatase was significantly higher in the carbamazepine group (264.71 +/- 66.91, U/L) than in the valproate group (179.48 +/- 79.37, U/L). Three patients (140%) had bone mineral density Z-score of -2.0 or lower in the carbamazepine-treated group, but none in the valproate-treated group (p=0.232). Comparing the Z-score in carbamazapine- and valproate-monotherapy children, 7 (33%) had Z-score of -1.5 or lower in the carbamazepine-treated group, and none in the valporate-treated group had Z-score of -1.5 or lower (p=0.009). Four (57%) patients in the 7 carbamazepine-treated children with Z-score of -1.5 or lower had serum drug level lower than therapeutic range.

Conclusions: Children receiving carbarmazepine monotherapy had increased frequency of lower bone density than children receiving valproate monotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Carbamazepine / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Valproic Acid / adverse effects*


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Carbamazepine
  • Valproic Acid