Skeletal fracture has not been considered a potential problem in postsurgical hypoparathyroidism, especially after clinical investigation, based on surrogate parameters, have shown that BMD is preserved or even enhanced in PhPT [7, 23]. The present study demonstrated that patients with PhPT have marked heterogeneity in lumbar spine BMD, usually exhibiting high or normal bone mass, while densitometric osteoporosis is uncommon. Paradoxically, we have observed a high frequency of morphometric fracture of lumbar and thoracic vertebrae in patients with PhPT, which is not restricted to those with low bone mass. A previous nonvertebral fracture was present in one patient of the PhPT group, while no individual of the control group sustained clinical fracture. In addition, our results show that panoramic radiography of the mandible is a useful tool for the recognition of bone disorders in PhPT. These results are of great significance in the clinical setting since these data correspond to the first evidence of increased risk of fractures in postsurgical hypoparathyroidism. Therefore, these preliminary results encourage further investigation of the etiopathogenesis and prevalence of this condition and a more appropriate approach to the management of this particular group of patients.
There are studies showing a differential impact of PhPT on diverse bone sites, the increase in BMD being higher in the lumbar spine than in the proximal femur , whereas forearm BMD was not positively affected . For Instance, Duan et al. evaluated 10 postmenopausal women harboring postsurgical hypoparathyroidism. The duration of PhPT in this group varied from 0.5 to 51 yr. These authors observed that BMD in patients with hypoparathyroidism was higher when compared with the age predicted mean at the lumbar spine and proximal femur, but not at the distal radius . The present study replicates this spectrum on a different level, with BMD being only slightly increased in the lumbar spine due to wide heterogeneity among patients and being modestly decreased in the proximal femur of PhPT patients, whereas bone mass was decreased in the distal forearm. The divergences between studies are probably due to differences in the profile of the patients examined. Different from other studies, we adopted more rigid criteria for the selection of volunteers. Patients with previous diagnosis of thyroid cancer and hyperthyroidism were excluded, ultimately avoiding the inclusion of individuals affected by other disorders associated with bone loss and fracture. Another difference is that previous studies included pre- and postmenopausal women, whereas only postmenopausal women participated in the present study. Akin to other studies, our patients showed a great variability in the duration of PhPT . This aspect can, at least in part, account for the large variation of BMD values in patients with PhPT. The relevance of this point is reinforced by the strong positive correlation between PhPT duration and BMD.
It should be mentioned that BMD assessment by DXA in PhPT was comparable to that described in primary hyperparathyroidism. It is well known that cortical bone is preferentially affected by primary hyperparathyroidism, and the same pattern was observed in PhPT. It should be pointed out that the control group also had distal forearm BMD within the osteopenia range, a fact possibly related to population characteristics, since the same profile was observed in normal individuals in previous studies performed in our laboratory . However, PhPT patients showed significantly lower distal forearm BMD compared to control individuals. Furthermore, the panoramic radiography of the mandible was especially useful to capture the reduction in cortical thickness in another bone site.
Despite the BMD of the lumbar spine, 63% of patients with PhPT showed at least one morphometric fracture in the dorsal/lumbar spine, and morphometric fractures were also detected in patients showing high bone mass. No study has previously evaluated fracture susceptibility in PhPT. The results indicate deterioration of bone quality, the other component that assures bone strength. A previous study  detected by Fourier transform infrared imaging of transiliac biopsies that the collagen cross-link ratio was significantly higher in hypoparathyroid subjects compared to normal individuals. Based on these and other results the authors suggested that bone has low turnover rate and acquires a mature or hypermature profile in PhPTH . Although, we have assessed only osteocalcin and DPD as biochemical bone markers of bone remodeling, our results support previous data obtained by bone histomorphometry. Decreased osteocalcin reflects reduced osteoblast activity in hypoparathyroidism. A reduced rate of bone remodeling which was reversed by intermittent administration of subcutaneous PTH has also been demonstrated by histomorphometric analysis in PhPT patients . In support of these data we observed that osteocalcin levels were significantly lower in PhPT patients than in normal individuals. On a long-term basis, the impairment of bone renewal is implicated in inefficient repair of microdamage and ultimately in fracture susceptibility.
Other factors must be taken into account regarding impairment of bone strength in PhPT patients, especially in those with high BMD. Thickening of trabecular bone could compromise bone strength by reducing resilience [26, 27]. In normal bone, the elastic properties of trabecular bone allow the skeleton to absorb energy by deforming reversibly when loaded . Although the greater mineral content in the hypoparathyroid bone might produce greater material stiffness, it may do so at the expense of the ability of the bone to deform and thus to absorb and dissipate energy. Without elastic deformation, it is possible that hypoparathyroid bone could be vulnerable to structural failure. Because the effectiveness of bone in stopping cracks is directly proportional to the stiffness ratio across its internal interfaces, a homogeneous material will be less effective in slowing or stopping cracks initiated in the bone matrix, permitting cracks to grow more quickly to critical size and ultimately increase fracture risk [29, 30].
Previous studies have shown that growth hormone deficiency impairs PTH circadian rhythm  and PTH action [32, 33]. In order to detect hormonal alterations in the growth hormone (GH)/IGF-I axis, in the present study we assessed serum IGF-I levels and the results showed that PhPT patients have a lightly lower circulatory IGF-I level than control individuals. However, we did not measure GH secretion or GH/IGF-I sensitivity in PhPT patients. Additionally, vitamin D sufficiency was evaluated and all patients showed normal serum 25(OH)D levels conferring a convenient substrate supply for paracrine/autocrine synthesis of 1,25(OH)2D. Endocrine levels of 1,25(OH)2D are largely dependent of PTH secretion, but all patients were taking physiological doses of calcitriol. Although, no woman of the control group was receiving calcium and vitamin D supplementation, they exhibited normal serum levels of 25-OHD. In agreement with these results, we did not observe a high frequency of hypovitaminosis D in this region of the state of São Paulo, Brazil, in previous studies [34, 35]. As vitamin D deficiency is associated with worse bone outcome, it is likely that our groups were in advantageous conditions compared to other populations with a higher incidence of vitamin D deficiency .
Previous studies have shown increased serum levels of RANKL and maintained OPG levels in primary hyperparathyroidism . Also, it was observed that intermittent administration of PTH to glucocorticoid-treated patients increases serum levels of RANKL and decreases serum levels of OPG . In the present study no difference was detected in RANKL and OPG serum level of PhPT patients in comparison to control subjects. To our knowledge, no previous study addressed serum RANKL levels in postsurgical hypoparathyroidism. Although low PTH levels might be expected to provoke decreased RANKL levels, it should be considered that 1,25(OH)2D stimulates RANKL synthesis.
The present study has some limitation; the number of patients studied was insufficient to definitively associate postsurgical hypoparathyroidism with increased fracture risk. However, these are important preliminary data for a more comprehensive study to examine the dissociation between bone fragility and bone mineral density in patients harboring postsurgical hypoparathyroidism.