Organ Transplant

Why is my risk for osteoporosis higher after an organ transplant?

People who have had an organ transplant may have increased risk for osteoporosis. In individuals who have liver or kidney transplants, end-stage organ failure may cause an inability to use calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients important for bone health. In addition, many transplant patients need to take medications that may lead to bone loss before and after surgery. Some examples include steroids (medications such as prednisone or cortisone taken for more than 3 months), certain diuretics and blood-thinning medications such as heparin or warfarin (brand name: Coumadin). A major factor that leads to bone loss is the immunosuppressive therapy, steroids and potentially some other medications required after surgery in order to have a successful organ transplant.

What are my risks for bone loss and fractures after transplant?

There is usually a rapid and substantial loss of bone in the first year after a transplant and this loss may continue for several years. The rates of breaking a bone (fracture) after organ transplant can be higher than average.

How can I promote stronger bones after transplant?

There are some very simple steps to take to help promote stronger bones:

Eat a variety of healthy (nutrient-rich) foods following any special dietary recommendations prescribed by your healthcare provider

Reach and maintain a healthy weight. Eat the amount of calories and protein you need. The amount that you need will depend on your height, weight, age, and medical condition.

Speak to your healthcare provider to discuss the amount of calcium you need for bone health and overall health. It is best to get calcium from the foods you eat and to space calcium out through the day by choosing a calcium rich food at meals or snacks. It is important to consult with your healthcare provider before deciding to take a calcium supplement. Too much calcium may be harmful.

Get the recommended amount of vitamin D. Check with your healthcare provider to find out how much vitamin D is recommended for you and the best way for you to get vitamin D taking any diet restrictions you have into consideration.

Be physically active. Your bones get stronger and denser when you make them work. If you have physical limitations, it may be beneficial to speak to your healthcare provider about getting a referral to a physical therapist. A physical therapist will take your medical condition and any physical limitations into consideration when planning a safe exercise program for strong bones and overall health.

Don’t smoke. If you do, STOP. Call 1-800-NYQUITS for information about how to quit.

Limit alcohol. Before drinking alcohol, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider about possible interactions with your medication or your medical condition. Too much alcohol can be harmful for your bones and your overall health.

Take action to prevent falls. Most broken bones occur as a result of a fall that can be prevented. Some actions to prevent falls at home include using nightlights, removing or securing scatter rugs, and getting rid of clutter.

In order to minimize any bone loss after transplant, speak to your healthcare provider about your medications and how they may affect your bones. Do not ever change or stop taking any medications without your healthcare provider’s advice.

It is recommended that you speak to your healthcare provider about getting a bone mineral density (BMD) test. A BMD test can tell if you have normal bone mass, low bone mass, or osteoporosis. If your bone mass is very low or if you have osteoporosis, your healthcare provider may recommend that you take an osteoporosis medication to prevent bone loss and/or fractures.