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Paget's disease of bone

Paget’s disease of the bone (also known as osteitis deformans) is a chronic bone disorder characterised by excessive abnormal bone remodelling. 


It is relatively common and can affect up to 4% of individuals over 40 and up to 11% over the age of 80 1. There may a slight male predilection.

Clinical presentation

The majority (approximately three quarters) of patients are asymptomatic at the time of diagnosis. Presenting symptoms include:

  • localised pain and tenderness
  • increased focal temperature due to hyperaemia(due to hyper vascularity)
  • increased bone size : historically changing hat size was a give-away
  • bowing deformities
  • kyphosis of the spine
  • decreased range of motion
  • signs and symptoms relating to complications (see below)

Polyostotic disease is more common than the monostotic type 1. The most frequent sites of involvement are :

  • spine
  • pelvis (often asymmetric)
  • skull
  • proximal long bones


The aetiology is not entirely known, however viral infection in association with genetic susceptibility has been postulated.

There are three stages classically described (but is part of continuous spectrum)

  • lytic (incipient active): predominated by osteoclastic activity
  • mixed (active): osteoblastic as well as osteoclastic activity
  • sclerotic/blastic (late inactive)
  • serum alkaline phopatase (ALP) elevated
  • urine hydroxyproline increased

Radiographic features

Plain film

The early phase features osteolytic (lucent) region which is later followed by coarsened trabeculae and bony enlargement. Sclerotic changes occur much later in the disease process. 


In the skull, osteolysis is frequently seen as well-defined, often large areas of radiolucency most commonly affecting the frontal and occipital bones; these areas are referred to as osteoporosis circumscripta or osteolysis circumscripta.

Both inner and outer calvarial tables are involved, with the former usually more extensively affected. 


Paget disease of the spine frequently manifests with cortical thickening encasing the vertebral margins, which gives rise to the picture frame sign on radiographs in mixed phase disease. On lateral radiographs flattening or squaring of the normal concavity of the anterior margin of the vertebral body also adds to the rectangular appearance. 

The osteoblastic activity is seen along all four margins of the vertebral body cortices, unlike the rugger jersey vertebrae in renal osteodystrophy, which only involves the superior and inferior endplates.

The vertical trabecular thickening pattern in Paget disease is coarser than the more delicate pattern seen in hemangiomas with which it can be confused.


Paget disease of the pelvis usually manifests with cortical thickening and sclerosis of the iliopectineal and ischiopubic lines. These findings are often asymmetric and for some reason, may be more commonly seen on the right side. Enlargement of the pubic rami and ischium are also often seen.

Long bones

In the long bones, osteolysis begins as a subchondral area of lucency. The advancing wedge of osteolysis often demonstrates a characteristic sharp radiolucent margin without sclerosis likened to a blade of grass or flame.

In rare cases, the disease is isolated to the diaphysis, most commonly in the tibia, rather than subchondral bone, which can cause diagnostic confusion


Paget's disease related signs include:

Bone scintigraphy

Highly sensitive but not specific. Traditionally has been said to demonstrate marked increased uptake in all phases of disease, although in the burnt out sclerotic quiescent phase uptake may be normal 1.


Differential diagnosis

For skull lesions consider:


It was first described by Sir James Paget in 1877.

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