Chronic acid retention is known to promote bone dissolution. In this study, 23 % of patients with osteopenia/osteoporosis were diagnosed with abnormal distal renal tubular acidification (dRTA), a kidney dysfunction leading to chronic acid retention. Treating those patients with alkali-therapy shows improvement in bone density. To evaluate the prevalence of abnormal distal renal tubular acidification in patients with low bone mass (LBM) and the impact of additional alkali treatment on bone density in patients with concomitant LBM and dRTA,183 patients referred for metabolic evaluation of densitometrically proven low bone mass were screened for abnormal distal renal tubular acidification between 2006 and 2013. In all LBM urine pH (U-pH) was measured in the 2nd morning urines after 12 h of fasting. If U-pH was ≥5.80, LBM underwent a 1-day ammonium chloride loading, and U-pH was remeasured the next morning. If U-pH after acid loading did not drop below 5.45, patients were diagnosed with abnormal distal renal tubular acidification. Normal values were obtained from 21 healthy controls. All LBM with dRTA were recommended alkali citrate in addition to conventional therapy of LBM, and follow-up DXAs were obtained until 2014. 85 LBM underwent NH4Cl loading. 42 LBM patients were diagnosed with incomplete dRTA (idRTA; prevalence 23.0 %). During follow-up (1.6–8 years) of idRTA-LBM patients, subjects adhering to alkali treatment tended to improve BMD at all sites measured, whereas BMD of non-adherent idRTA patients worsened/remained unchanged. (1) About one out of four patients with osteopenia/osteoporosis has idRTA. (2) Upon NH4Cl loading, idRTA patients do not lower urine pH normally, but show signs of increased acid-buffering by bone dissolution. (3) In idRTA patients with low bone mass on conventional therapy, additional long-term alkali treatment improves bone mass at lumbar spine and potentially at other bone sites. (4) All patients with low bone mass undergoing metabolic evaluation should be screened for idRTA.
Keywords Metabolic acidosis Low bone mass Incomplete renal tubular acidosis Bone dissolution Alkali treatment