Should patients with coeliac disease have their bone mineral density measured?

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In 1998 we published guidelines for managing osteoporosis in coeliac disease. These guidelines recommended bone mineral density (BMD) measurement at diagnosis. We analyse the results of following these guidelines in a district general hospital with a view to rationalizing screening.

Patients and methods

Forty-three consecutive patients with newly diagnosed coeliac disease had dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans of the hip and lumbar spine. Results were correlated with factors that were suspected to influence BMD and were compared with comparable published studies.


Osteoporosis at the hip and spine was found in only 7% and 14% of patients, respectively. Mean z scores were not significantly reduced. BMD did not correlate with the duration of gluten exposure, symptoms, degree of villous atrophy, or smoking. At the hip, but not at the spine, there was a significant correlation between BMD and the body mass index.


The surprisingly low yield of reduced BMD, together with doubt about increased fracture rates in coeliac patients, does not support the current recommendations for screening BMD at diagnosis, and the guidelines should be changed.

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