purpose: To evaluate the incidence and etiology of osteopenia and pathologic fractures in cardiac transplant recipients. patients: Thirty-one adult male cardiac transplant recipients and 14 adult men with congestive heart failure (CHF) awaiting cardiac transplantation. methods: Assessment of indices of bone and mineral metabolism and of bone mineral density (BMD) by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. results: BMD in the proximal femur was below normal in both groups compared to that in age-matched control subjects, whereas BMD in the lumbar spine was normal. There was no significant difference in BMD at any site between the two groups. No clinical parameter predicted BMD. In all patients, laboratory indices of bone mineral metabolism, except parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels, were normal and not statistically different between the two groups. CHF patients had a trend toward elevations of PTH, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, and urinary calcium excretion compared to transplant patients. Eight of 31 transplant patients and 2 of 14 CHF patients had vertebral compression fractures (c2 = 11.8, p <0.0006). Transplant recipients with fractures had twice as many rejection episodes as did transplant, patients without fractures, but did not differ in cumulative dose of steroids. Two patients developed avascular necrosis of the femoral head following transplantation. conclusions: Cardiac transplant recipients and patients with CHF awaiting transplantation had decreased hip BMD, but normal spine BMD. Although immunosuppressive therapy did not appear to influence bone mass, loop diuretics prior to transplantation may have stimulated a mild secondary increase in PTH that could have differentially caused loss of bone density at the hip in both groups. Pulse corticosteroids used in treating rejection may have contributed to the increased incidence of vertebral fractures in transplant patients. These data suggest that severe CHF with its associated diuretic use and decreased activity are primary contributors to osteopenia in these patients.
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