Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is the most common inherited neurodegenerative ataxia. Apart from predominant neurological features an involvement of the skeletal system in terms of scoliosis and foot deformities is frequent. Disease-related falls, mobility restrictions, and wheelchair-dependency in later disease stages might additionally compromise bone structure in FRDA. The aim of this pilot study was to systematically evaluate the bone status in a representative FRDA cohort. Twenty-eight FRDA patients became enrolled in this cross-sectional study. Neurological assessment, a questionnaire comprising the history of fractures and osteoporosis as well as osteodensitometric measurements complemented with general and bone-specific laboratory parameters were performed. The WHO Fracture Risk Assessment tool (FRAX®) was applied, calculating the 10-year risk of suffering an osteoporotic fracture. Six patients (21.4 %) presented with a bone mineral density below the expected range for age in at least one of the examined sites (femoral neck, lumbar spine, and forearm) irrespective of their gender. Corresponding Z scores were significantly lower compared to normative values for the femoral neck and lumbar spine. Vitamin D status was insufficient in 11 and deficient in 8 FRDA patients. There was a strong negative correlation between ataxia severity, GAA repeat expansion and bone density in the femoral neck of FRDA patients. This is the first report of an increased rate of low bone mineral density in FRDA. Given the increased risk of falls, this data rectifies routine bone mineral density measurements in FRDA which may help to initiate therapeutic interventions to prevent this condition.
Friedreich ataxia Bone mineral density Osteoporosis Fracture Vitamin D Ataxia severity GAA repeat expansion
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We gratefully thank our FRDA patients for participating in this study. Furthermore, we thank Prof. Hanno Ulmer from the Department of Medical Statistics, Innsbruck Medical University for his consulting statistical service. AE, WN and SB are members of the European Friedreich's Ataxia Consortium for Translational Studies (EFACTS).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no financial or other conflict of interests.
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