Lithium carbonate is a widely used drug for affective disorders. It may effect calcium metabolism and alter parathyroid physiology by causing hypersecretion of parathyroid hormone. Patients treated with this medication might therefore be predisposed to osteoporosis. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of either short- or long-term lithium carbonate therapy on parameters of bone metabolism. Parathyroid function and indices of bone metabolism were assessed in 23 patients treated for affective disorders, to patients were treated for 0.4-1.0 year (Group 1), and 13 patients were treated for more than 3 years (Group 2). In all subjects, bone mineral density measurements in the hip and lumbar spine regions were performed using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Serum thyroid hormone, PTH, LH, testosterone and urine OH-proline, free cortisol, calcium and phosphate excretion were measured. The two groups were well matched for sex, weight, calcium intake, lithium levels and smoking habits, although Group 2 was slightly older. No differences between the two groups were noted in either bone mineral density or other parameters that were assessed. Urinary OH- proline was elevated similarly in both groups. Our results did not detect any effect on bone density after short- or long-term lithium carbonate therapy, although the data does suggest an increase in bone turnover associated with this treatment. Thus, short- or long-term treatment with lithium is not associated with increased risk for osteoporosis.
- Bone mineral density