Osteoporosis in Individuals with Spinal Cord Injury

In this paper, the pathophysiology, clinical considerations, and applicable experimental findings with regard to osteoporosis in individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) will be discussed. The bone loss that occurs acutely after more neurologically motor complete SCI is unique for its sublesional skeletal distribution and rate, at certain skeletal sites approaching 1% of bone mineral density per week, and its resistance to currently available treatments. The areas of high bone loss include the distal femur, proximal tibia, and more distal boney sites. Evidence from a study performed in monozygotic twins discordant for SCI suggests that sublesional bone loss in the twin with SCI increases for several decades, strongly indicating that the heightened net bone loss after SCI may persist for an extended period of time. The increased frequency of fragility fracture after paralysis will be discussed, and a few risk factors for such fractures after SCI will be examined. Because vitamin D deficiency, regardless of disability, is a relevant consideration for bone health, as well as an easily reversible condition, the increased prevalence of and treatment target values for vitamin D in this deficiency state in the SCI population will be reviewed. Pharmacological and mechanical approaches to preserving bone integrity in persons with acute and chronic SCI will be reviewed, with emphasis placed on efficacy and practicality. Emerging osteoanabolic agents that improve functioning of WNT/β-catenin signaling after paralysis will be introduced as therapeutic interventions that may hold potential.