Metabolic bone disease is recognized with increasing frequency in very-low-birth-weight infants. Radiological changes characteristic of rickets have been found in 55% of infants with a birth weight of less than 1000 g and in 23% of infants weighing less than 1500 g at birth. Twenty-four per cent of infants with a birth weight of less than 1500 g have fractures. The main aetiological factor is insufficient phosphorus supplementation. The aetiology is, however, multifactorial and also includes calcium deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, certain drugs, aluminium loading and immobilisation. The method of choice in detecting subclinical mineral bone disease of prematurity is measurement of bone mineral density, but there is as yet no single good diagnostic method available for premature infants. The optimal mineral and vitamin D requirement of the premature infant must be established so that proper recommendations can be given. The current recommended vitamin D dose in Europe (ESPGAN 800-1000 IU/day) is probably too high when extra minerals are supplied. Moreover, the duration of mineral supplementation may need to be continued until the infant has reached a body weight of 3.5 kg. This article deals with the aetiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis and future prospects of metabolic bone disease of prematurity.