BACKGROUND: Osteomalacia is now a rare disease in dialysis patients in developed countries since the withdrawal of aluminium overload. The involvement of fluoride and strontium in the pathogenesis of the disease has been suggested. The aim of this study was to investigate a possible association between osteomalacia in dialysis patients and the fluoride or strontium contents of bone.
METHODS: Of 271 bone biopsies from chronic haemodialysis patients referred to our centre, we studied the nine biopsies from patients with osteomalacia. They were compared with 23 biopsies from patients with hyperparathyroidism and 24 biopsies from patients with adynamic bone disease. Histomorphometric static and dynamic indices were measured. Bone fluoride and strontium contents were measured in biopsies from haemodialysis patients, and were compared with those of control patients.
RESULTS: In the nine patients with osteomalacia, we found an absence of double labelled surfaces and increased osteoid thickness. Mild aluminium overload was observed in two of the nine patients. The bone strontium content of the entire dialysis population studied was not significantly different from control values (0.023+/-0.001 vs 0.019+/-0.002% mol/mol, P=0.15). However, bone strontium level was slightly but significantly increased in patients with osteomalacia (0.030+/-0.005%), compared with both controls (0.019+/-0.002%, P<0.05) and the other bone diseases (0.021+/-0.002%, P<0.05). Bone fluoride content was significantly higher in the entire dialysis population than in the controls (0.33+/-0.04 vs 0.13+/-0.018% (g/g ash weight), P=0.04). It was increased in osteomalacic patients compared with controls and with patients having hyperparathyroidism or adynamic bone disease. There was no correlation between formation indices (OV/BV, OS/BS, Ob.S/BS) and bone fluoride or strontium content.
CONCLUSIONS: We found a prevalence of osteomalacia of 3.3% in our biopsy series for chronic dialysis patients. However, although bone strontium and fluoride contents were slightly increased, no causal relationship with these individual metals and osteomalacia could be firmly established in this small number of patients. The hypothesis of strontium- or fluoride-induced osteomalacia in renal patients merits further investigation.