What are the recommendations for screening and treatment for osteoporosis and in patients with muscular dystrophy?

Updated: Aug 17, 2020
  • Author: Twee T Do, MD; Chief Editor: Jeffrey D Thomson, MD  more...
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In a very thorough review, Buckner et al detailed the recommendations for screening and treatment of osteoporosis induced by limited mobility and chronic steroid use. [68]   An initial thorough dietary screen for vitamin D and calcium intake is done at the initial visit and at regular intervals thereafter. A fracture screen is also performed. Active vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) levels can be checked by means of a blood test. The Endocrine Society defines the following categories for vitamin D levels:

  • Vitamin D deficiency - <20 ng/mL
  • Insufficient vitamin D - 20 ng/mL
  • Sufficient vitamin D - >30 ng/mL

A baseline dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan is performed when steroid therapy is started and is repeated every 1-2 years while therapy continues. The scan is done with height-adjusted Z-scores, which yield more consistent results for pediatric MD patients with shorter stature. With the onset of back pain, a lateral radiograph is obtained as a baseline; lateral spine x-rays involve more radiation than the DXA scan.

If the patient has low Z-scores, a history of previous fractures, or both, treatment of the osteoporosis is indicated. Therapeutic options include the following:

  • Calcium and vitamin D supplementation
  • “Vibration” therapy (which has been shown to be more effective in cerebral palsy patients than other categories of neurologic patients)
  • Bisphosphonates - Bisphosphonates typically used in pediatric patients include oral alendronate, intravenous pamidronate, and zoledronic acid; these agents have been shown to improve bone mineral density (BMD) and Z-scores as well as ease fracture-induced back pain

Multiple studies are currently being conducted to further elucidate clear recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of steroid-induced osteoporotic fractures of the spine and long bones in patients with MD.

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