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A Pratical Tool to Detect Bone Mass Deficiencies in Children With Chronic Diseases

According to a new study at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, pediatricians now created a screening tool to determine whether children with chronic diseases like Crohn's, juvenile arthritis and anorexia nervosa -- or those undergoing cancer treatment -- are at increased risk for bone mass deficiencies, fracture or osteoporosis as they get older.

There is a huge demand for this information among clinicians because in almost any chronic condition in children affecting growth, inflammation, or involving cancer survivors, they have problem bones,'' said Heidi Kalkwarf, PhD, associate professor of Community and General Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's, and lead author of the research report. "The issue is you can't know there is a problem unless you know what is normal and part of the research focuses on identifying what is normal."

The study focused on gathering standardized data about accumulation of bone mass during childhood -- a critical determinant of whether children are at elevated risk for fracture or osteoporosis, Dr. Kalkwarf said. The research findings will allow physicians to use standardized data on bone mass categorized by sex, age, and race -- and formatted similar to a growth chart -- as a screening tool to identify children with potential underlying problems in skeletal development.

In collecting their data, researchers conducted bone density scans on the spine, forearm, hip and whole body to establish reference data for multiple skeletal sites. This comprehensive evaluation of bone status will determine if certain conditions or treatments affect some skeletal sites differently from others. The research was funded by and conducted under the auspices of the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health. The research report is published in the June edition of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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