Durability and delayed treatment effects of zoledronic acid on bone loss after spinal cord injury: a randomized, controlled trial

J Bone Miner Res. 2021 Nov;36(11):2127-2138. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.4416. Epub 2021 Jul 29.


A single infusion of zoledronic acid (ZOL) after acute spinal cord injury (SCI) attenuates bone loss at the hip (proximal femur) and knee (distal femur and proximal tibia) for at least 6 months. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of timing and frequency of ZOL over 2 years. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we randomized 60 individuals with acute SCI (<120 days of injury) to receive either ZOL 5-mg infusion (n = 30) or placebo (n = 30). After 12 months, groups were again randomized to receive ZOL or placebo, resulting in four treatment groups for year 2: (i) ZOL both years; (ii) ZOL year 1, placebo year 2; (iii) placebo year 1, ZOL year 2; and (iv) placebo both years. Our primary outcome was bone loss at 12 months; compared to placebo, a single infusion of ZOL attenuated bone loss at the proximal femur, where median changes relative to baseline were -1.7% to -2.2% for ZOL versus -11.3% to -12.8% for placebo (p < 0.001). Similarly, the distal femur and proximal tibia showed changes of -4.7% to -9.6% for ZOL versus -8.9% to -23.0% for placebo (p ≤ 0.042). After 24 months, differences were significant at the proximal femur only (-3.2% to -6.0% for ZOL vs. -16.8% to -21.8% for placebo; p ≤ 0.018). Although not statistically significant, median bone density losses suggested some benefit from two annual infusions compared to a single baseline infusion, as well as from a single infusion 12 months after baseline compared to 2 years of placebo; therefore, further investigation in the 12-month to 24-month treatment window is warranted. No unanticipated adverse events associated with drug treatment were observed. In summary, ZOL 5-mg infusion after acute SCI was well-tolerated and may provide an effective therapeutic approach to prevent bone loss in the first few years following SCI. © 2021 American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02325414.


Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density
  • Bone Density Conservation Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries* / drug therapy
  • Time-to-Treatment
  • Zoledronic Acid


  • Bone Density Conservation Agents
  • Diphosphonates
  • Imidazoles
  • Zoledronic Acid

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02325414