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A 65-year-old man is referred to you from his primary care physician (PCP) for evaluation and management of possible osteoporosis. He saw his PCP for evaluation of low back pain. X-rays of the spine showed some degenerative changes in the lumbar spine plus several wedge deformities in the thoracic spine. The patient is a long-time smoker (up to two packs per day) and has two to four glasses of wine with dinner, more on the weekends. He has chronic bronchitis, presumably from smoking, and has been treated many times with oral prednisone for exacerbations of bronchitis. He is currently on 10 mg/d prednisone. Examination shows kyphosis of the thoracic spine, with some tenderness to fist percussion over the thoracic spine. The DEXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) measurement of the lumbar spine is "within the normal limits," but the radiologist noted that the reading may be misleading because of degenerative changes. The hip measurement shows a T score (number of standard deviations by which the patient's measured bone density differs from that of a normal young adult) in the femoral neck of –2.2. What further workup should be considered, and what therapy should be initiated?


Calcium and phosphate, the major mineral constituents of bone, are also two of the most important minerals for general cellular function. Accordingly, the body has evolved complex mechanisms to carefully maintain calcium and phosphate homeostasis (Figure 42–1). Approximately 98% of the 1–2 kg of calcium and 85% of the 1 kg of phosphorus in the human adult are found in bone, the principal reservoir for these minerals. This reservoir is dynamic, with constant remodeling of bone and ready exchange of bone mineral with that in the extracellular fluid. Bone also serves as the principal structural support for the body and provides the space for hematopoiesis. This relationship is more than fortuitous as elements of the bone marrow affect skeletal processes just as skeletal elements affect hematopoeitic processes. Abnormalities in bone mineral homeostasis can lead to a wide variety of cellular dysfunctions (eg, tetany, coma, muscle weakness), and to disturbances in structural support of the body (eg, osteoporosis with fractures) and loss of hematopoietic capacity (eg, infantile osteopetrosis).

Figure 42–1
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Mechanisms contributing to bone mineral homeostasis. Serum calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) concentrations are controlled principally by three hormones, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25[OH]2D, D), fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23), and parathyroid hormone (PTH), through their action on absorption from the gut and from bone and on renal excretion. PTH and 1,25(OH)2D increase the input of calcium and phosphorus from bone into the serum and stimulate bone formation. 1,25(OH)2D also increases calcium and phosphate absorption from the gut. In the kidney, 1,25(OH)2D decreases excretion of both calcium and phosphorus, whereas PTH reduces calcium but increases phosphorus excretion. FGF23 stimulates renal excretion of phosphate. Calcitonin (CT) is a less ...

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