Neonatal rickets; Brittle bones – premature infants; Weak bones – premature infants; Osteopenia of prematurity
Definition of Osteopenia – premature infants
Osteopenia is a decrease in the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the bone. This can cause bones to be weak and brittle, and increases the risk for broken bones.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
During the last 3 months of pregnancy, large amounts of calcium and phosphorus are transferred from the mother to the baby so that the baby’s bones will grow.
Most premature infants born before 30 weeks have some degree of osteopenia, but will not have any physical symptoms.
Signs and tests
Osteopenia is more difficult to diagnose in premature infants than in adults. The most common tests used to diagnose and monitor osteopenia of prematurity include:
Therapies that appear to improve bone strength in infants include:
Fractures will usually heal well on their own with gentle handling, and increased dietary intakes of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. There may be an increase risk for fractures throughout the first year of life for very premature infants with osteopenia of prematurity.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 11/2/2009