Background: In patients with severe emphysema, bone mineral density (BMD) is reduced and the risk of osteoporosis is increased.
Study objectives: To identify the impact of lung volume reduction surgery on BMD.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: University hospital.
Patients and interventions: Forty emphysematous patients, all receiving oral steroid therapy, underwent bilateral lung volume reduction surgery. Thirty similar patients, who refused the operation, followed a standard respiratory rehabilitation program.
Measurements: All subjects were evaluated pretreatment and 12 months posttreatment for respiratory function, nutritional status, and bone-related biochemical parameters. BMD was assessed by dual-energy radiograph absorptiometry.
Results: After surgery, we observed significant improvements in respiratory function (FEV1, + 18.8% [p < 0.01]; residual volume [RV], −29.6% [p < 0.001]; diffusing capacity of the lung for carbon monoxide [Dlco], + 21.6% [p < 0.01]) nutritional parameters (fat-free mass, + 6.0% [p < 0.01]), levels of bone-related hormones (free-testosterone, + 20.5% [p < 0.01]; parathormone, –11.2% [p < 0.01]), bone turnover markers (osteocalcin, –12.7% [p < 0.05]; bone-alkaline-phosphatase, –14.0% [p < 0.05]; β-crosslaps, −33.6% [p < 0.001]), BMD (lumbar, + 8.8% [p < 0.01]; femoral, + 5.5% [p < 0.01]), and T-score (lumbar, + 21.0% [p < 0.01]; femoral, + 12.4% [p < 0.01]) with reduction in osteoporosis rate (50 to 25%). Nineteen patients who had undergone surgery were able to discontinue treatment with oral steroids. These subjects showed a more significant improvement in BMD (lumbar, + 9.6%; femoral, + 6.8%; p < 0.001) and T-score (lumbar, + 27.3%; femoral, + 14.3%; p < 0.001). The remaining 21 patients who had undergone surgery experienced significant improvement compared to respiratory rehabilitation subjects despite continued therapy with oral steroids (BMD: lumbar, + 4.5% vs −0.7%, respectively [p < 0.01]; femoral, + 2.7% vs –1.1%, respectively [p < 0.05]; T-score: lumbar, + 14 vs –2.1, respectively [p < 0.01]; femoral, + 7.4 vs –2.7, respectively [p < 0.01]). The increase in lumbar BMD was correlated with the surgical reduction of RV (p = 0.02) and with the increase in Dlco (p = 0.01) and fat-free mass (p = 0.01).
Conclusions: Lung volume reduction surgery significantly improves BMD compared to respiratory rehabilitation therapy, even in patients requiring oral steroids. The increase in BMD correlates with RV, Dlco, and fat-free mass, suggesting that the restoration of respiratory dynamics, gas exchange, and nutritional status induces improvement in bone metabolism and mineral content.