Biochemical, hormonal, and kinetic indexes of bone turnover were measured in 17 ambulant female patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) of recent onset (mean disease duration 14.2 months) and 19 controls. Mean serum osteocalcin concentration and 85Sr accretion rates were reduced and mean urinary hydroxyproline-creatinine ratios were increased in RA, but these differences were not significant compared with control values. Mean total body potassium (TBK), an index of skeletal muscle mass, was significantly reduced in RA, and the ratio of observed to predicted TBK correlated with indexes of bone formation. No abnormality of skeletal metabolism could be shown in early RA, but reduced rates of bone formation associated with diminished muscle mass may influence the development of osteopenia later in the disease.
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