Prevention of bone loss in cardiac transplant recipients. A comparison of biphosphonates and vitamin D

Transplantation. 1996 May 27;61(10):1495-9. doi: 10.1097/00007890-199605270-00015.


Bone mineral density is already abnormally reduced at the moment of cardiac transplantation and bone loss occurs at an impressive rate in the first postoperative year. The aim of the study was to compare two prophylactic medical regimens as to their efficacy in mitigating bone loss after transplantation. Forty-eight consecutive recipients were randomized to receive either alternating calcium carbonate and disodium etidronate (group A) or a daily supplement of calcium carbonate and alphacalcidol (group B). Bone mineral density measurements were performed immediately before hospital discharge and 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Clinical events were recorded and roentgenograms of the spine were performed postoperatively and 1 and 2 years later. In both treatment groups bone loss remained significant at the level of the lumbar spine in the first postoperative year (P<0.005) and at the level of the femoral neck in the first (P<0.005) and the second (P<0.06) year after transplantation. Six months after transplantation, however, patients receiving alphacalcidol had a significant reduction in bone loss at the level of the lumbar spine (P=0.047) and at the level of the femoral neck (P=0.043). At the level of the femoral neck this decrease in bone loss was even more pronounced in the second postoperative year (P<0.001). In the group of patients treated with disodium etidronate, 4 recipients needed additional hospitalizations for treatment of symptomatic fractures at the level of the lumbar spine or the femoral neck. No such events happened in recipients receiving vitamin D supplements. Prophylactic administration of calcium carbonate and alphacalcidol after cardiac transplantation reduces bone loss and seems to decrease osteoporotic complications.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium / therapeutic use
  • Etidronic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Heart Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxycholecalciferols / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoporosis / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / prevention & control*
  • Time Factors
  • Vitamin D / therapeutic use*


  • Hydroxycholecalciferols
  • Vitamin D
  • Etidronic Acid
  • Calcium
  • alfacalcidol