Study objective: Chronically critically ill (CCI) patients are primarily elderly people who have survived a life-threatening episode of sepsis but remain profoundly debilitated and ventilator dependent. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of bone hyperresorption and parathyroid hormone (PTH)-vitamin D axis abnormalities in these patients.
Design: Prevalence survey.
Setting: Respiratory care step-down unit (RCU) at a tertiary care teaching hospital.
Patients: Forty-nine ventilator-dependent CCI patients transferred from ICUs within the same institution.
Measurements and results: N-telopeptide (NTx) levels in 24-h urine collections and serum intact PTH, 25-vitamin D, and 1,25-vitamin D levels were measured within 48 h of RCU admission. Patients were hospitalized a median of 30 days before RCU admission. Four patients (9%) had normal NTx and PTH levels. Forty-five patients (92%) had elevated urine NTx levels consistent with bone hyperresorption. Nineteen patients (42% of total patients) had elevated PTH levels consistent with predominant vitamin D deficiency, 4 patients (9%) had suppressed PTH levels consistent with predominant hyperresorption from immobilization, and 22 patients (49%) had normal PTH levels consistent with an overlap of both vitamin D deficiency and immobilization. There were no differences in vitamin D metabolites among these groups.
Conclusions: CCI patients have a high prevalence of bone hyperresorption in which PTH levels may clarify the cause. Further studies will determine the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of routine NTx and PTH screening in these patients and the role of vitamin D and antiresorptive therapies.