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Journal of bone and mineral research


Bisphosphonates (BPs) are the most widely used drugs for the treatment of osteoporosis but prolonged use of BPs might increase the risk of atypical femur fracture (AFF). There are only a few studies that address the bone material quality in patients on long-term BP treatment with or without AFFs. We analyzed 52 trans-iliac bone biopsies from patients on long-term BP therapy with (n = 26) and without (n = 26) AFF. At the microscopic level, the degree of mineralization of bone (DMB) was assessed on whole bone by X-ray digitized microradiography while microhardness by Vickers microindentation, and bone matrix characteristics by Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIRM) (mineral/organic ratio, mineral maturity and crystallinity, and collagen maturity) were measured at random focal areas. The AFF patients were treated longer than non-AFF patients (9.7 ± 3.3 years versus 7.9 ± 2.7 years). As expected, bone remodeling was low in both groups, without difference between them. The AFF group had significantly higher DMB in cortical bone (+2.9%, p = .001), which remained so after adjusting for treatment duration (p = .007), and showed a trend in cancellous bone (+1.6%, p = .05). Consistent with higher DMB, heterogeneity index (HI) was lower in the AFF than in the non-AFF group, illustrating lower heterogeneity of mineralization in the AFF group. A significant positive correlation between the duration of treatment and DMB in cortical bone was found in AFF, and not in the non-AFF group. Microhardness and bone matrix characteristics were similar between groups. We conclude that the AFF group had a duration-dependent increase in DMB leading to a significantly higher DMB than the non-AFF. Because BPs have high affinity to bone mineral and lining the walls of the osteocyte lacunae, the accumulation of matrix-bound BPs in AFF could lead to inhibition of the osteocyte cytoskeleton blunting their response to mechanical strains, a hypothesis to be further investigated.

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ePub ahead of print