Chronic administration of anticonvulsants but not antidepressants impairs bone strength: Clinical implications

P. W. Gold, M. G. Pavlatou, D. Michelson, C. M. Mouro, M. A. Kling, M. L. Wong, J. Licinio, S. A. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Major depression and bipolar disorder are associated with decreased bone mineral density (BMD). Antidepressants such as imipramine (IMIP) and specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been implicated in reduced BMD and/or fracture in older depressed patients. Moreover, anticonvulsants such as valproate (VAL) and carbamazepine (CBZ) are also known to increase fracture rates. Although BMD is a predictor of susceptibility to fracture, bone strength is a more sensitive predictor. We measured mechanical and geometrical properties of bone in 68 male Sprague Dawley rats on IMIP, fluoxetine (FLX), VAL, CBZ, CBZ vehicle and saline (SAL), given intraperitoneally daily for 8 weeks. Distinct regions were tested to failure by four-point bending, whereas load displacement was used to determine stiffness. The left femurs were scanned in a MicroCT system to calculate mid-diaphyseal moments of inertia. None of these parameters were affected by antidepressants. However, VAL resulted in a significant decrease in stiffness and a reduction in yield, and CBZ induced a decrease in stiffness. Only CBZ induced alterations in mechanical properties that were accompanied by significant geometrical changes. These data reveal that chronic antidepressant treatment does not reduce bone strength, in contrast to chronic anticonvulsant treatment. Thus, decreased BMD and increased fracture rates in older patients on antidepressants are more likely to represent factors intrinsic to depression that weaken bone rather than antidepressants per se. Patients with affective illness on anticonvulsants may be at particularly high risk for fracture, especially as they grow older, as bone strength falls progressively with age.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e576
JournalTranslational psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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