OBJECTIVES--To determine whether there was a generalised increase in bone mineral density (BMD) in spinal osteoarthrosis (OA), and to determine the mechanism of this possible protection against osteoporosis as assessed by biochemical markers of bone turnover. METHODS--We studied 375 women (ages 50 to 85) from a population based group. Spinal OA was defined from radiographs as the presence of degenerative changes affecting intervertebral or facet joints. BMD of the lumbar spine (LS), femoral neck (FN) and total body (TB) was measured by dual energy x ray absorptiometry (Lunar DPX). Bone turnover rates were estimated from measurement of biochemical markers of bone formation and resorption (urine deoxypyridinoline (Dpyr) and serum bone specific alkaline phosphatase (BAP)). RESULTS--BMD at each site was greater in the women with spinal OA (mean increase in LS-BMD 7.9%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.0 to 15.1; TB-BMD 8.4%, 95% CI 1.9 to 9.7; FN-BMD 6.4%, 95% CI 0.3 to 12.6). Twenty four hour urinary excretion of Dpyr, corrected for TB bone mineral content, and serum BAP were 19% lower in the women with spinal OA (95% CI for Dpyr 4.3 to 31.9%; for BAP 6.3 to 32.0%). CONCLUSIONS--Spinal OA is associated with a generalised increase in BMD and a decreased rate of bone turnover. This suggests that the protective effect of spinal OA against osteoporosis may be mediated by decreased bone turnover.
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