Risk factors associated with prevalent vertebral fractures in Duchenne muscular dystrophy


Patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) have a high fracture burden due to progressive myopathy and steroid-induced osteoporosis. This study in males with DMD showed that markers of systemic glucocorticoid exposure including shorter stature, greater bone age delay, and lower lumbar spine bone mineral density were associated with spine fragility.

Introduction: Fragility fractures are frequent in DMD. The purpose of this study was to identify clinical factors associated with prevalent vertebral fractures (VF) in boys, teens/young adults with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of males aged 4-25 years with DMD. VF were evaluated using the modified Genant semi-quantitative method on T4-L4 lateral spine radiographs. Areal bone mineral density (aBMD) was measured at the lumbar spine (LS) and used to estimate volumetric BMD (vBMD). Clinical factors were analyzed for their association with the Spinal Deformity Index (SDI, the sum of the Genant grades).

Results: Sixty participants were enrolled (mean age 11.5 years, range 5.4-19.5). Nineteen participants (32%) had a total of 67 VF; 23/67 VF (34%) were moderate or severe. Participants with VF were shorter (mean height Z-score ± standard deviation: – 3.1 ± 1.4 vs. – 1.8 ± 1.4, p = 0.001), had longer glucocorticoid exposure (mean duration 6.0 ± 3.3 vs. 3.9 ± 3.3 years, p = 0.027), greater bone age (BA) delay (mean BA to chronological age difference – 3.2 ± 3.4 vs. – 1.3 ± 1.2 years, p = 0.035), and lower LSaBMD Z-scores (mean – 3.0 ± 1.0 vs. – 2.2 ± 1.2, p = 0.023). There was no difference in LSvBMD Z-scores. Multivariable Poisson regression showed that every 0.1 mg/kg/day increment in average glucocorticoid daily dose was associated with a 1.4-fold SDI increase (95% confidence interval: 1.1-1.7, p = 0.013). Greater BA delay (p < 0.001), higher weight Z-score (p = 0.004), decreased height Z-score (p = 0.025), and lower LSvBMD Z-score (p = 0.025) were also associated with SDI increase.

Conclusion: Readily measurable clinical variables were associated with prevalent VF in males with glucocorticoid-treated DMD. These variables may be useful to identify candidates for primary osteoporosis prevention after glucocorticoid initiation.

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Kevin Smit

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

    View Profile Email
  2. Marie-Eve Robinson

    Investigator, CHEO Research Institute

    View Profile Email