Bisphosphonates induce major increases in strength of callus in distraction osteogenesis in the short term. Poor understanding of the underlying mechanism, however, raises concerns about long-term consequences. In this long-term study in 32 rabbits, zoledronic acid transiently increased trabeculae by delayed temporal progression of endochondral bone remodeling but did not prevent radiographic completion of bone repair.
Introduction: We hypothesized that bisphosphonate inhibition of osteoclast-mediated resorption would retain bone during repair, producing a larger callus in the short term. However, if remodeling was not restored, completion of the bone repair process in the long term could be jeopardized.
Materials and Methods: Juvenile rabbits underwent right tibial osteotomy and 2 weeks of distraction, followed by a period of consolidation. Animals received saline (controls) or zoledronic acid (ZA; 0.1 mg/kg at surgery and again 2 weeks later), and distracted tibias were examined by radiograph, DXA, histology, and histomorphometry at 2, 4, 6, 18, and 44 weeks after surgery.
Results: Regenerated bone in ZA-treated animals was denser than controls on radiographs at 6 weeks and had more distinct radiodense trabeculae and retention of original cortices at 18 weeks. By 44 weeks, controls and ZA-treated animals were radiographically healed and indistinguishable. Regenerate BMD and BMC increased between 2 and 4 weeks in all animals, with a greater effect in ZA. At 6 weeks, BMD and BMC in ZA-treated animals were 1.6- and 2-fold greater, respectively, than controls (p < 0.01). From 6 to 44 weeks, the control values gradually increased and approached the ZA-treated values. Regenerate bone volume and trabecular number by histomorphometry were from 1.6- to 2-fold greater in ZA-treated animals at 6 and 18 weeks (p < 0.05). Endochondral cartilaginous matrix volume was up to 2.4-fold greater in ZA-treated animals at 2 and 4 weeks (p < 0.05). TRACP+ cells in ZA-treated animals were larger with more nuclei. Mineral apposition rate and osteoblast number and surface were lower in ZA-treated animals at 6 weeks (p < 0.01) but not at later times.
Conclusions: Disruption of TRACP+ cell function by ZA during bone regeneration seems to lead to an accretion of cancellous bone built on a larger endochondral cartilaginous matrix and increased bone mass, consistent with reported increases in short-term callus strength. This increase in bone mass, caused by a delay in remodeling, provided a transient advantage without preventing radiographic completion of the bone repair process in the long term. Noncontinuous treatment with nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates thus can have short-term beneficial effects without preventing long-term bone repair.