A reduced bone mineral density has been reported in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Objective: To assess the mechanisms of bone disease in IBD.
Methods: We studied in 90 patients (61 with Crohn's disease, 22 with ulcerative colitis, 7 with indeterminate colitis) biochemical markers of bone metabolism in serum and bone mineral density by peripheral quantitative computed tomography at the forearm.
Results: Forty-five percent of the patients had a reduced bone density (Z score < -1). Serum calcium was normal in most patients, vitamin D deficiency was documented in 17%. Osteocalcin, a serum marker of bone formation, was decreased in 26% (1.2 +/- 0.1 ng/ml), whereas the carboxyterminal cross-linked telopeptide of type I collagen (ICTP), a recently described serum parameter of bone breakdown, was stimulated in 38% (10.4 +/- 2.3 microg/L). Of 33 patients with increased ICTP levels, 19 showed a decreased bone density (Z score < -1), and 2 of them never received steroids. An active status of the underlying disease in most patients with increased ICTP levels suggests a direct effect of the underlying IBD. In the whole series of patients with a history of active disease (n = 34), 47% had signs of an increased bone degradation (ICTP > 5 microg/L; mean, 12.9 +/- 4.7 microg/L). Data derived from a retrospective survey of 245 patients with IBD suggest that the prevalence of bone fractures in IBD is unexpectedly high, particularly in patients with a long duration of disease, frequent active phases, and high cumulative doses of corticosteroid intake.
Conclusions: Several mechanisms may be involved in IBD-associated bone disease: (1) a high inflammatory activity directly induces bone degradation via yet unknown pathways, (2) treatment with corticosteroids may exert catabolic effects on the bone, or (3) malabsorption and vitamin D deficiency may activate bone turnover.