Ann Rheum Dis 63:940-944 doi:10.1136/ard.2003.011734
  • Extended report

Bone loss in patients treated with pulses of methylprednisolone is not negligible: a short term prospective observational study

  1. G Haugeberg,
  2. B Griffiths,
  3. K B Sokoll,
  4. P Emery
  1. Academic Unit of Musculoskeletal Disease, Department of Rheumatology, University of Leeds, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor P Emery
    Department of Rheumatology, 1st Floor, Leeds General Infirmary, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3EX, UK;
  • Accepted 17 October 2003


Objective: To examine the influence of intravenous pulsed methylprednisolone (MP) on bone mass.

Methods: 38 patients (30 women) with various rheumatic disorders requiring intravenous MP pulse treatment were examined at baseline and after 6 months with dual energy x ray absorptiometry (DXA), measuring hip and lumbar spine bone mineral density (BMD). Demographic and clinical data were collected.

Results: Demographics showed: mean (SD) age 48.4 (16.3) years, body mass index 24.9 (5.1) kg/m2, and median (range) disease duration 3.2 (0.1–40.0) years. During follow up patients received a mean cumulative MP dose of 3.0 (1.6) g given as 5.7 (2.0) pulses over a median period of 5.7 (2.3–33.7) months. 34/38 (89%) patients were also pulsed with cyclophosphamide, 20 (53%) were taking oral corticosteroids, and 8 (21%) were using either bisphosphonates or oestrogen. At the end of the study mean BMD was reduced by −2.2% at the femoral neck, −1.1% at the total hip, and −1.0% at the spine L2-4. In subgroups BMD increased in patients treated with bisphosphonates or oestrogen (femoral neck +1.6%, total hip +3.2%, spine L2-4 +4.5%), whereas BMD decreased at all sites in patients not treated with antirersorptive treatment, both for users (femoral neck −4.4%, total hip −2.4%, spine L2-4 –2.1%) and non-users of concomitant oral prednisolone (femoral neck −1.7%, total hip –1.9%, spine L2-4 –2.6%).

Conclusion: Treatment with intravenous pulses of MP leads to a high rate of bone loss. Prevention of bone loss in these patients with bisphosphonates and oestrogens should be considered.