Histomorphometric assessment of the long-term effects of alendronate on bone quality and remodeling in patients with osteoporosis

J Clin Invest. 1997 Sep 15;100(6):1475-80. doi: 10.1172/JCI119668.


Treatment effects on bone quality and remodeling was assessed in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis treated with oral alendronate. One transiliac bone biopsy was obtained from 231 women at either 24 mo (n = 11) or 36 mo (n = 120) from the start of treatment with alendronate at doses of between 5 and 20 mg/d, or placebo. 64 biopsies at 24 mo (31 from the placebo group and 33 alendronate-treated patients) and 95 biopsies at 36 mo (40 from the placebo group and 55 alendronate-treated patients) provided adequate cancellous tissue, and were analyzed by histomorphometry. Mineral apposition rate was unaffected by treatment. At 24 and 36 mo, osteoid thickness, volume, and surface significantly decreased. At each of the doses studied, mineralizing surface and activation frequency significantly decreased at each time point (e.g., -92% and -87%, respectively, for the 10 mg daily dose after 2 yr). These diminutions were of the same magnitude for each dose at 24 mo, and for the two highest doses at 36 mo. A significant increase in wall thickness accompanied by a reduction in erosion depth was detected in biopsies obtained at 24 mo. These findings confirm that mineralization is normal, and trabecular bone turnover markedly decreased in patients receiving long-term dosing with alendronate. The findings also suggest that the observed increases in bone mineral density could result both from a reduction in the remodeling space due to a decreased activation frequency and a possible trend to a positive bone balance. In addition, further studies focused on a possible increase in the degree of mineralization of bone are required.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alendronate / administration & dosage
  • Alendronate / adverse effects
  • Alendronate / therapeutic use*
  • Biopsy
  • Bone Remodeling / drug effects*
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects
  • Bone and Bones / pathology*
  • Calcification, Physiologic / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteomalacia / chemically induced
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / pathology
  • Postmenopause
  • Time Factors


  • Alendronate