Rapid bone loss after cardiac and lung transplantation results in an increased risk of osteoporotic fracture. This study examined the efficacy of treatment with calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) in preventing bone loss in patients undergoing cardiac or lung transplantation. In this 2-year double-blind, stratified study, 65 patients undergoing cardiac or single lung transplantation were randomly allocated to receive either placebo or calcitriol (0.5-0.75 μg/day), the latter for either 12 months or 24 months. All patients received 600 mg calcium/day. Bone mineral density (BMD) was measured every 6 months for 2 years by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. There was no significant difference between groups with respect to age or cumulative dose of prednis(ol)one or cyclosporine over the 2 years. Bone loss at the proximal femur was significantly reduced or prevented at all three sites by treatment with calcitriol for 2 years compared with treatment with calcium alone. Treatment with calcitriol for 12 months followed by calcium for 12 months resulted in similar proximal femoral bone loss to that seen in those patients treated with calcium for 24 months, suggesting calcitriol prophylaxis needs to be continued beyond 12 months. At the lumbar spine, there were no significant differences in BMD between groups. Over a period of 2 years, 22 new vertebral fractures/deformities occurred in 4 patients treated with calcium alone compared with one new vertebral fracture in 1 patient treated with calcitriol. Because the sample size was too low to provide reliable interpretation of vertebral fracture rates, this difference is likely a chance result. Mild hypercalcemia was common with calcitriol therapy, as was mild hypercalciuria (59% of patients vs. 10% controls), but there were no significant differences between groups in serum creatinine after 2 years. These data suggest calcitriol has a role in reducing proximal femur bone loss after cardiac or lung transplantation but treatment needs to be continued beyond 1 year.
- Vitamin D