Late Low-Dose Steroid Withdrawal in Renal Transplant Recipients Increases Bone Formation and Bone Mineral Density

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Corticosteroids have been the most widely used immunosuppressive agents since the first clinical transplantation in the 1950s. There are few studies of late steroid withdrawal in renal transplantation and none have prospectively assessed bone mineral density (BMD). The study aim was to assess the impact of corticosteroid withdrawal, in stable renal transplant recipients, on BMD and bone turnover.BMD, osteocalcin (OC) and cross-linked telopeptide of type I collagen (CTx) were measured in 92 patients randomized into a trial of steroid withdrawal. Patients with functioning renal transplants for more than 1 year with a serum creatinine below 200 μmol/L entered the trial. All patients were on triple immunosuppression (Cyclosporin microemulsion, Azathioprine and prednisolone), corticosteroids were withdrawn at 1 mg/month. BMD was measured twice annually with serum CTx and OC.One year following withdrawal of glucocorticoids there was no significant difference in creatinine. BMD increased in the withdrawal group (2.54% per year L1-L4, p < 0.01), there was a slight reduction in the control group. Mean OC increased from 5.3 to 12.2 ng/mL (p < 0.05) in the withdrawal group, but was unchanged in the controls. No change was seen in CTx.Corticosteroid withdrawal in renal transplant recipients results in an increase in BMD with a corresponding increase in serum OC.

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