Bone mineral content in spinal trabecular and peripheral cortical bone was measured in 75 unselected patients with small and/or large intestinal inflammatory bowel disease. Osteoporosis, defined as a bone mineral content greater than 2 SD below the age and sex matched normal mean value was present in 23 patients (30.6%). Three amenorrhoeic females aged 34, 38, and 42 years had severe clinical osteoporosis and a further three patients had one or more vertebral crush fractures. Eighteen of the 23 patients with osteoporosis had small intestinal disease with one or more resections and the mean lifetime steroid dose in those with osteoporosis was significantly higher than in those with normal bone mineral content. Bone mineral content in spinal trabecular bone showed significant negative correlations with lifetime steroid dose and serum alkaline phosphatase and a significant positive correlation with serum albumin. Peripheral cortical bone mineral content was positively correlated with body weight, height and body mass index. We conclude that the prevalence of osteoporosis is increased in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, severe clinical osteoporosis developing in some relatively young patients. The pathogenesis of this bone loss is probably multifactorial; steroid therapy is likely to be an important contributory factor.
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