To determine the bone mineral density (BMD) status of our juvenile dermatomyositis (DM) population and to compare the frequency of osteopenia in patients with active disease requiring corticosteroids with that in patients with inactive disease who are not receiving corticosteroids.
Medical charts of all children diagnosed as having juvenile DM at our institution between 1989 and 1999 were reviewed for demographic and clinical data, including disease activity and duration of corticosteroid therapy. BMD measurements of the lumbar spine (L1–L4) were performed using dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Z scores were calculated from the BMD data for comparison with published normative data.
A total of 15 patients were assessed: 10 with active disease, and 5 with inactive disease who had not taken corticosteroids for an average of 6.0 years (range 3.4–8.1 years). Baseline BMD measurements demonstrated osteopenia or frank osteoporosis in the majority of patients, including 6 of the 10 patients with active disease and 4 of the 5 patients whose disease was in remission. Fourteen patients had serial BMD measurements. Persistent or worsening osteopenia was documented in all patients who had ongoing active disease, except for 3 patients who had been treated with bisphosphonates because of vertebral compression fractures.
Osteopenia is common in patients with juvenile DM, and it usually worsens with ongoing disease. It can persist for many years after the disease enters remission. Bisphosphonates appeared to beneficially affect bone mineralization in our patients. Treatment to prevent the long-term complications of osteoporosis in patients with juvenile DM should be considered and requires further study.