Rationale: Studies demonstrating an association between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and low bone mineral density (BMD) implicate factors distinct from treatments and severity of lung disease in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis. Whereas emphysema has been independently associated with vascular disease and other comorbidities, its association with BMD has not been well studied.
Objectives: We explored the associations of BMD with computed tomography (CT) measures of emphysema and other risk factors in current and former smokers.
Methods: One hundred ninety subjects completed a CT scan, pulmonary function testing, questionnaires, and dual x-ray absorptiometry measurements of hip and lumbar spine BMD. Subjects were classified as having normal BMD, osteopenia, or osteoporosis. Demographic, physiologic, and radiographic characteristics were compared and the association of BMD with radiographic emphysema, airflow obstruction, and osteoporosis risk factors was assessed.
Measurements and Main Results: No difference existed in age, tobacco exposure, oral steroid use, or physical activity across BMD categories. Both osteopenia and osteoporosis were associated with the presence of airflow obstruction, inhaled corticosteroid use, and female sex, and demonstrated a significant relationship with the presence of visual emphysema (P = 0.0003). Quantitative emphysema, but not CT-measured indices of airway wall thickness, was inversely associated with BMD. Visual emphysema alone was a significant predictor of osteopenia/osteoporosis (odds ratio = 2.55; 95% confidence interval, 1.24–5.25) in a model including obstruction severity, age, sex, and inhaled and oral steroid use.
Conclusions: Radiographic emphysema is a strong, independent predictor of low BMD in current and former smokers. This relationship suggests a common mechanistic link between emphysema and osteopenia/osteoporosis.