The effects of corticosteroids on bone growth and bone density

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To define the effects of both parenteral and inhaled corticosteroids on bone growth in children and the development of osteopenia and osteoporosis in children and adults.

Data Resources:

Articles in PubMed and MEDLINE published from 1983 to 2008 were searched. Keywords used included corticosteroids and bone growth, osteopenia, osteoporosis, and bisphosphonates.

Study Selection:

Publications reviewed include randomized, placebo-controlled studies of both children and adults.


Because systemic and high-dose inhaled corticosteroids affect bone growth of children taking these medications, stadiometry should be used to measure the growth of children. Osteoporosis due to repetitive courses of oral or parenteral corticosteroids and inhaled corticosteroids can develop gradually in the aging adult. Prophylaxis against osteoporosis requires an index of suspicion, assessment of bone density, supplemental calcium and vitamin D, and use of bisphosphonates to prevent bone fractures that could compromise the patient’s quality of life.


Preventing corticosteroid-induced effects on bone metabolism can allow effective treatment of allergic disease without long-term adverse effects.

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