Disorders of bone and mineral metabolism affect almost all patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (CKD). High prevalence of decreased bone mineral density has been reported in this population; however, the role and diagnostic utility of bone density measurements are not well established. The incidence of bone fractures is high in patients with ESRD, but the association between fractures and bone density is not obvious. A recent meta-analysis suggested that decreased density at the radius might be associated with higher overall fracture risk. Changes in bone mineral density reflect several underlying pathological processes, such as vitamin D deficiency, estrogen deficiency and changes in bone turnover. The response of bone to these factors and processes is not uniform: it can vary in different compartments of the same bone or in different bones of the skeleton. Therefore, it is important to differentiate between the various types of bone. This may be possible by proper selection of the measurement site or using methods such as quantitative bone computed tomography. Previous studies used different methods and measured bone mineral density at diverse sites of the skeleton, which makes the comparison of their results very difficult. The association between changes in bone mineral metabolism and cardiovascular mortality is well known in ESRD patients. Studies also suggest that low bone density itself might be an indicator for high risk of cardiovascular events and poor overall outcome in this population. Some of the risk factors of low bone mineral density, such as vitamin D or estrogen deficiency, are potentially modifiable. Further studies are needed to elucidate if interventions modifying these risk factors will have an impact on clinical outcomes. In this review, we discuss the options for and problems of assessment of bone density and summarize the literature about factors associated with low bone density and its link to clinical outcomes in patients on maintenance dialysis.
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