The rate of spinal trabecular bone loss during one year was measured in 54 patients with inflammatory bowel disease. The mean change in spinal bone mineral content was -5.1 mg/ml K2HPO4, representing 3% of the initial bone mineral content. The rate of bone loss showed a significant negative correlation with body mass index (r = -0.276, p less than 0.05) but no other significant correlations were found with other clinical or biochemical indices, including the total amount of prednisolone taken during the course of the study. Eleven patients had bone loss greater than 15 mg/ml/year; these included four non-steroid treated patients, two of whom had disease confined to the large bowel. The results indicate rapid rates of bone loss in some patients with inflammatory bowel disease over the course of one year. Although steroid therapy and malnutrition are likely to be contributory factors in some patients, other, as yet unidentified, risk factors also operate. The rapid bone loss observed in some patients emphasises the need for effective prophylactic regimes.
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