Bone mineral density in patients with Crohn's disease during long-term treatment with azathioprine

J Intern Med. 1998 Feb;243(2):123-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2796.1998.00246.x.


Objectives: To ascertain whether patients with Crohn's disease treated with azathioprine maintained bone mineral mass better than patients treated with steroids alone.

Design: Retrospective study.

Setting: University Hospital of Malmö, Sweden.

Subjects: A total of 59 patients with ileocolonic, ileocaecal or colonic Crohn's disease.

Methods: Bone mass was assessed by dual photon X-ray absorptiometry at the level of L2-L4.

Results: Patients treated with a high lifetime dose of steroids (> 5 g prednisolone) had significantly (P = 0.011) lower Z-score of L2-L4 (-0.87 +/- 1.11; 11 SD) than steroid-treated patients, who had received a low dose of prednisolone (< 5 g) (0.08 +/- 1.16 SD). Azathioprine did not negatively influence the steroid effect on bone mineral density.

Conclusions: Azathioprine does not seem to affect bone mineral density by itself. However, by being steroid-saving, it seems to conserve bone mineral mass in patients with Crohn's disease.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Azathioprine / administration & dosage
  • Azathioprine / pharmacology*
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Colitis / physiopathology
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy
  • Crohn Disease / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ileitis / physiopathology
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Azathioprine