Osteogenesis Imperfecta in Children
What is osteogenesis imperfecta?
Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), also known as brittle-bone disease, is a genetic (inherited) disorder characterized by bones that break easily without a specific cause. An estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people in the U.S. have this disease. OI can affect males and females of all races.
What causes osteogenesis imperfecta?
The cause of OI is believed to be because of a genetic defect that causes imperfectly formed or an inadequate amount of bone collagen, a protein found in the connective tissue.
What are the symptoms of osteogenesis imperfecta?
The following are the most common symptoms for OI. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Although symptoms may vary, generally they are used to classify the eight forms of OI, each of which represents varying grades of severity of the condition.
According to the Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, part of the National Institutes of Health, the types of OI and their symptoms include:
The symptoms of OI may resemble other bone problems or medical conditions. Always talk with your child's healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is osteogenesis imperfecta diagnosed?
Because this is a genetic disorder, your child's healthcare provider will take a careful family history in addition to a complete medical history and do a physical exam. Diagnostic procedures for OI may include a skin biopsy to evaluate the amount and structure of collagen. But this test is complicated, and not many qualified facilities are available to perform the procedure. It is not unusual for results of the biopsy to take weeks to months.
Additional diagnostic tests include:
X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
Audiometry. This is a hearing test using electronic tones.
Ear, nose and throat exam. This is done to detect hearing loss.
You may want to consider seeing a geneticist, a healthcare provider who specializes in hereditary diseases. He or she can best help you understand your risk of having another child with OI and your child's risk of having a child with OI.
Treatment for osteogenesis imperfecta
Specific treatment for OI will be discussed with you by your child's healthcare provider based on the following:
Your child's age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the condition
Type of condition
Your child's tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the condition
Your opinion or preference
To date, no known treatment, medicine, or surgery will cure OI. The goal of treatment is to prevent deformities and fractures and allow the child to function as independently as possible. Treatments for preventing or correcting symptoms may include the following:
Care of fractures
Rodding, a procedure to insert a metal bar the length of a long bone to stabilize it and prevent deformity
Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, braces, and other custom-made equipment
Management of osteogenesis imperfecta
Management of the disease includes focusing on preventing or reducing deformities and increasing the child's functional ability at home and in the community. Management of OI is either nonsurgical or surgical. Nonsurgical interventions may include one or more of the following:
Regular low impact exercise and a healthy diet. These are recommended for proper weight maintenance.
Positioning aids. These are used to help the child sit, lie, or stand.
Braces and splints. These are used to prevent deformity and promote support or protection.
Avoidance of smoking
Avoidance of steroid medicines
Surgical interventions may be considered to manage the following conditions:
Bowing of bone
Scoliosis, a condition that causes the back bones to curve
Surgery may also be considered to maintain a child's ability to sit or stand.
Long-term outlook for a child with osteogenesis imperfecta
OI is a progressive condition that needs life-long management to prevent deformity and complications.
The interdisciplinary healthcare team helps the family to improve the child's functional outcomes and to provide support to the parents as they learn to care for their child's needs.
The Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation can be an important resource for parents of children with OI.