, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 320-324

Variability of vertebral and femoral postmenopausal bone loss: A longitudinal study

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The rate of postmenopausal bone loss varies considerably between individuals and it has been suggested that about 1 in 3 women loses significant amount of bone mineral in the forearm. The rate of vertebral and femoral bone loss was determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry throughout two consecutive 22-month periods, in 93 healthy women who had passed a natural menopause 6–60 months earlier. In all cases the bone changes were normally distributed, ranging from −6.9% to +2.8% per year in the spine and from −7% to +4.8% per year in the femur. No significant relationship was found between the two fractional rates of bone loss. When the women were stratified into three groups according to their individual rate of bone loss, we found that only 20%–47% retained their first classification during the second period of follow-up. In particular, less than 10% of the women showed a rapid rate of bone loss throughout the study. We conclude that spontaneous vertebral and femoral bone loss exhibit a great variability within the first postmenopausal years and that only a small minority of women sustain a fast rate of bone loss over several years. These results raise the question as to whether the evaluation of individual rates of bone loss at menopause might be useful in the identification of women at higher risk of osteoporosis.