Adult patients with GH deficiency (GHD) are characterized by a reduced muscle mass, but also reduced bone mineral density (BMD) and content (BMC), which have been ascribed to GHD per se.
The aim of this study was to investigate if changes in BMD/BMC in adult GHD patients could be due to a muscle modulating effect, and if treatment with GH would primarily increase muscle mass and strength with a secondary increase in BMD/BMC, thus supporting the present physiological concept that mass and strength of bones are mainly determined by dynamic loads from the skeletal muscles.
We performed a systematic literature analysis, including 51 clinical trials published between 1996 and 2008, which had studied the development in muscle mass, muscle strength, BMD, and/or BMC in GH-treated adult GHD patients.
GH therapy had an anabolic effect on skeletal muscle. The largest increase in muscle mass occurred during the first 12 months of therapy.
Most trials measuring BMD/BMC reported significant increases from baseline values. The significant increases in BMD/BMC occurred after 12–18 months of treatment, i.e. usually later than the increases in muscle parameters. Only seven trials studied both muscle and bone variables concomitantly. No trials studied the relationship between the changes in muscle and bone measurements.
Although in vitro studies have shown that GH has a direct effect on bone remodeling, present physiological concepts and the results of clinical trials from 1996 to 2008 suggest that the anabolic changes in muscle mass and strength may also contribute to changes in BMD/BMC in GH-treated adult GHD patients.