Peripheral and axial bone mass and fracture incidence were studied in a group of 104 postmenopausal patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Patients were divided into non-corticosteroid and low dose corticosteroid treated groups after elimination of patients with concomitant disease or therapy which might affect bone mass. Results were compared with those obtained in controls matched for age and sex. Bone mass at the distal radius was significantly reduced compared with that of controls in both patient groups. Axial bone mass, however, was normal in both treatment groups, non-corticosteroid treated patients having even a significantly higher bone mass than controls (p less than 0.05) and corticosteroid treated patients (p less than 0.05). Fracture incidence (vertebral and femoral neck) was significantly (p less than 0.01) higher in corticosteroid treated patients than in the non-corticosteroid treated group. The mean lumbar bone mineral content and the body weight of the fracture group were significantly lower than in the controls. There were no significant differences in biochemical markers of bone turnover between the RA groups.
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