Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder, usually requiring long-term treatment with anti-epileptic drugs (AED). Many studies have reported that AED therapy is associated with metabolic bone disease and is a major iatrogenic risk factor for fractures. There remains uncertainty about the type(s) of bone disease due to AED treatment, and the pathogenesis of AED-associated fractures.Rationale
Deficits in bone mineral density (BMD) are widely reported in AED-treated patient populations. However, much of the research conducted to date has been limited by factors such as small sample size, potentially biased subject selection, a lack of selection of appropriate control data, and failure to take account of important confounding influences. The pathogenesis of AED-associated fractures is likely to be multifactorial, due to factors including reduced BMD, impaired bone quality (due to osteoporosis and/or osteomalacia), increased propensity to fall, and fractures associated with seizures or loss of consciousness.Recommendations
Patients receiving long-term AED should be monitored for indices of bone health, including BMD and vitamin D status. Lifestyle factors should be optimized, vitamin D status maintained, and fall prevention strategies introduced as appropriate. Good seizure control is important. The use of additional, specific osteoporosis therapy is not evidence-based in this setting, but would appear reasonable in patients with clinically significant decreases in BMD, applying current treatment guidelines for osteoporosis.Conclusion
There is a pressing need for improved understanding of the pathogenesis of AED-associated bone disease, for better definition of the risk associated with specific AED regimens, and for the development of evidence-based preventive and treatment approaches in this common but neglected disorder.