Prevalence of fractures among the Thalassemia syndromes in North America
Historically, fractures are cited as a frequent problem in patients with Thalassemia prior to optimization of transfusion and chelation regimens. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of fractures in a contemporary sample of North American patients with Thalassemia. The North American Thalassemia Clinical Research Network (TCRN) database registry was used to gather historical data on 702 patients with common alpha and beta-Thalassemia diagnoses including Thalassemia Major (TM), Intermedia (TI), E/Beta, homozygous alpha Thalassemia (AT), Hemoglobin H disease (HbH) and HbH with Constant Spring (HbH/CS), who consented to a medical record chart review. Bone mineral density (BMD) measurements by DXA were available for review in a subgroup of patients (n = 312). The overall fracture prevalence among all Thalassemia syndromes was 12.1%, equally distributed between females (11.5%) and males (12.7%). Fractures occurred more frequently in TM (16.6%) and TI (12.2%) compared to E/Beta (7.4%) and alpha (2.3%). Prevalence increased with age (2.5% ages 0-10 years, 7.4% ages 11-19 years, 23.2% ages >20 years) and with use of sex hormone replacement therapy (SHRT) (P < 0.01). On average, BMD Z and T scores were 0.85 SD lower among patients with a history of fractures (mean Z/T score -2.78 vs. -1.93, 95% CI for the difference -0.49 to -1.22 SD, P = 0.02). Presence of other endocrinopathies (i.e. hypothyroidism, hypoparathyroidism and diabetes mellitus), anthropometric parameters, heart disease or hepatitis C were not significant independent predictors of fractures. These data indicate that fractures remain a frequent complication among the aging patients with both TM and TI beta-Thalassemia. However, the fracture prevalence has improved compared to published reports from the 1960s to 1970s. In addition, children with Thalassemia appear to have low fracture rates compared to the general population.