BACKGROUND: Low bone mineral density (BMD) is common in chronic lung diseases and associated with reduced quality of life. Little is known about BMD in pulmonary hypertension (PH). METHODS: Steroid-naïve patients with PH (n=34; 19 idiopathic, 15 chronic thromboembolic) had BMD measured by DXA at the time of diagnostic right heart catheterization. Exercise capacity, quality of life and various parameters related to PH severity and bone metabolism were also assessed. 24 patients with left heart failure (LHF) were similarly assessed as controls. RESULTS: The prevalence of osteopenia was high both in PH (80%) and in controls with LHF (75%). Low BMD was associated with lean body mass, age, lower BMI, impaired exercise capacity and in PH with higher pulmonary vascular resistance. Serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) was elevated and considerably higher in PH than in LHF (above normal, in 55 vs 29%). Secondary hyperparathyroidism was not related to impaired renal function but possibly to low vitamin D status. CONCLUSIONS: Osteopenia is common in PH and in chronically ill patients with LHF. Osteopenia is associated with known risk factors but in PH also with disease severity. Preventive measures in an increasingly chronic ill PH population should be considered. Secondary hyperparathyroidism is highly prevalent in PH and might contribute to bone and possibly pulmonary vascular disease. Whether adequate vitamin D substitution could prevent low BMD in PH remains to be determined.