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The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 44-B, Issue 3 | Pages 464 - 484
1 Aug 1962
Urist MR Zaccalini PS MacDonald NS Skoog WA

1. Individuals who are normal and not osteoporotic seem to show retention of cortical bone at successive decades of life in proportion to the total lean body-mass. In patients with osteoporosis the weight of the skeleton decreases at a rate exceeding the physiological rate of atrophy of muscle, tendon and bone tissue that occurs with the time-dependent process of ageing.

2. Six patients representing the typical forms of osteoporosis commonly found in orthopaedic practice were investigated intensively over a period of three years and compared with individuals in whom there was no osteoporosis by studies of metabolic balance, Sr85 osteograms, and tetracycline deposition.

3. Studies of metabolic balance in patients with osteoporosis showed normal or negative calcium balances, but an equilibrium for the metabolism of nitrogen and phosphorus. Increased intake of calcium in the diet produced retention of calcium but not sufficient phosphorus, nitrogen or gain in weight to prove that the patient had made new bone and healed the osteoporosis.

4. Radio-isotope osteograms showed high, normal or low rates of change of uptake of Sr85 and the accretion rate was calculated to be normal or low in individuals with osteoporosis. High uptake of tetracycline by a small mass of bone tissue and by a relatively small percentage of the total number of osteons suggested that in an adult human being the calcium reserve in the skeleton is enormous. Thirty to 50 per cent of the total bone mass was sufficient to turn over 0·5 to 1·0 gramme, the amount of calcium utilised in twenty-four hours by the human adult. This was accomplished by structural or old bone throughout the entire skeleton, and by labile or newer bone located in approximately 10 per cent of the total number of Haversian cylinders or osteons.

5. Some of the unclosed or half-closed osteons were hyperactive in osteoporotic bones. In the process of remodelling of cortical bone a significant quantity of bone tissue was incompletely restored and there were, presumably as a result, intermittently large or small negative calcium balances. Osteoporosis may have been the cause, rather than the result, of the negative calcium balance.

6. The experimental and clinical literature of the past ten years, and studies on patients described in this critical review, were interpreted to indicate that prolonged calcium deficiency, castration, hyperadrenal corticoidism or a sedentary life may precipitate, accentuate and accelerate osteoporosis in individuals who are genetically predisposed to develop it. Sometimes high calcium intake or sex hormones, or both, may have slowed the rate of resorption but did not replace the deficit in cortical bone.

7. Further research is necessary to find the chief etiological factor and to produce the cure for this increasingly common disorder of the skeleton.