• nephrotic syndrome;
  • glucocorticoids;
  • children;
  • pQCT;
  • BMD


Glucocorticoid (GC) effects on skeletal development have not been established. The objective of this pQCT study was to assess volumetric BMD (vBMD) and cortical dimensions in childhood steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome (SSNS), a disorder with minimal independent deleterious skeletal effects. Tibia pQCT was used to assess trabecular and cortical vBMD, cortical dimensions, and muscle area in 55 SSNS (age, 5–19 yr) and >650 control participants. Race-, sex-, and age-, or tibia length-specific Z-scores were generated for pQCT outcomes. Bone biomarkers included bone-specific alkaline phosphatase and urinary deoxypyridinoline. SSNS participants had lower height Z-scores (p < 0.0001) compared with controls. In SSNS, Z-scores for cortical area were greater (+0.37; 95% CI = 0.09, 0.66; p = 0.01), for cortical vBMD were greater (+1.17; 95% CI = 0.89, 1.45; p < 0.0001), and for trabecular vBMD were lower (−0.60; 95% CI, = −0.89, −0.31; p < 0.0001) compared with controls. Muscle area (+0.34; 95% CI = 0.08, 0.61; p = 0.01) and fat area (+0.56; 95% CI = 0.27, 0.84; p < 0.001) Z-scores were greater in SSNS, and adjustment for muscle area eliminated the greater cortical area in SSNS. Bone formation and resorption biomarkers were significantly and inversely associated with cortical vBMD in SSNS and controls and were significantly lower in the 34 SSNS participants taking GCs at the time of the study compared with controls. In conclusion, GCs in SSNS were associated with significantly greater cortical vBMD and cortical area and lower trabecular vBMD, with evidence of low bone turnover. Lower bone biomarkers were associated with greater cortical vBMD. Studies are needed to determine the fracture implications of these varied effects.