The prevalence of metabolic disease in a population of 68 postgastrectomy patients was assessed using histomorphometric evaluation of transiliac bone biopsy specimens after tetracycline double labelling. Trabecular bone volume was significantly lower in the postgastrectomy group (p less than 0.01): 62% of the patients had increased osteoid surface, 56% increased osteoid thickness, and 24% increased mineralisation lag time. Only 18%, however, fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for osteomalacia--increased osteoid thickness and increased mineralisation lag time. Postgastrectomy patients had reduced serum concentrations of calcium (p less than 0.01), phosphate (p less than 0.01), and 25-hydroxyvitamin D, while levels of alkaline phosphatase and 1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D were high (p less than 0.01). The severity of the mineralisation defect as reflected by mineralisation lag time was positively correlated to serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, but unrelated to serum 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Multiple linear regression analysis showed that serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D, age, and the duration of postoperative follow up were significant determinants of the mineralisation defect in a given patient. The limited value of serum markers in the diagnosis of osteomalacia was emphasised by the fact that six of the eight patients with osteomalacia had normal serum levels of calcium and alkaline phosphatase, and five of the eight had values for 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the normal range for healthy control subjects. The results clearly show the need for vitamin D supplementation and regular control after gastric resection.
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