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Research Article

Bone turnover in postmenopausal osteoporosis. Effect of calcitonin treatment.

R Civitelli, S Gonnelli, F Zacchei, S Bigazzi, A Vattimo, L V Avioli and C Gennari

Division of Bone and Mineral Metabolism, Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri 63110.

Published October 1988

To investigate the effectiveness of calcitonin treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis in relation to bone turnover, we examined 53 postmenopausal osteoporotic women before and after one year of therapy with salmon calcitonin (sCT), at the dose of 50 IU every other day. Baseline evaluation revealed that 17 (32%) patients had high turnover (HTOP), and 36 (68%) normal turnover osteoporosis (NTOP) as assessed by measurement of whole body retention (WBR) of 99mTc-methylene diphosphonate. The two groups did not differ in terms of bone mineral content (BMC) measured by dual photon absorptiometry at both lumbar spine and femoral diaphysis. However, HTOP patients had higher levels of serum osteocalcin (OC) and urinary hydroxyproline excretion (HOP/Cr). Multivariate regression analysis showed no correlation between parameters of bone turnover (WBR, OC, HOP/Cr) and both femoral and vertebral bone density; the latter being negatively correlated only with the years elapsed since menopause (R2 = 0.406). Treatment with sCT resulted in a significant increase of vertebral BMC in the 53 patients taken as a whole group (+/- 7%, P less than 0.001). When the results obtained in HTOP and NTOP were analyzed separately, only those with HTOP showed a marked increment of spinal BMC (+22%, P less than 0.001), NTOP subjects neither gained nor lost bone mineral during the study. Femoral BMC decreased in the whole group after sCT therapy (-3%, P less than 0.003). However, HTOP patients maintained initial BMC values, whereas those with NTOP lost a significant amount of bone during the study period (-5%, P less than 0.001). The increase of vertebral bone mass was associated with a marked depression of bone turnover detectable in both subsets of patients and in the whole group. In conclusion: (a) assessment of bone turnover cannot help predict the severity of bone loss in postmenopausal osteoporosis; (b) calcitonin therapy appears to be particularly indicated for patients with high-turnover osteoporosis, resulting in a net gain of bone mineral in the axial skeleton and a slowing of bone loss in the appendicular bones.

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