The effects of colectomy on acid–base status, extra-osseous and bone minerals, calciotropic hormones and bone morphology have not yet been studied. To rectify this, groups of normally fed male rats were subjected to distal (n = 11), proximal (n = 12) or total (n = 12) colectomy. Sham-operated rats (n = 12) served as controls. At 112 (±2) days after colectomy the following changes were noted: (1) weight gain was delayed; (2) faecal excretion of calcium and phosphorus was normal, whereas that of magnesium was increased; (3) intestinal calcium secretion and absorption of calcium and phosphorus were normal, but magnesium absorption was decreased; (4) urinary excretion of magnesium was also decreased, that of phosphorus was increased, and that of pyridinium and deoxypyridinium tended to be high; (5) the serum levels of ionized magnesium, total calcium, 25-hydroxyvitamin D and parathyroid hormone were normal, while that of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D was markedly elevated; and (6) bone magnesium and phosphorus content were decreased, but bone calcium was normal, and thus the bone calcium/phosphorus ratio was high. These abnormalities were associated with moderate metabolic acidosis, as reflected by high urinary ammonium, low citrate and low total CO2, but normal blood gases. Significant structural abnormalities of bone were not detectable, but trabecular bone tended to show rarefication. Distal colectomy had the least effect, whereas proximal and total colectomies had a distinct effect, on these parameters. It is concluded that colectomy in the rat causes: (1) a syndrome of magnesium deficiency of intestinal origin, compensated metabolic acidosis, urinary phosphorus loss, and high circulating 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D levels, with the degree depending on the extent of surgical resection; and (2) brittle bones, a feature characteristic of low bone magnesium and more generalized magnesium deficiency. The mechanisms leading to this syndrome are unknown, but altered tissue levels of magnesium and phosphorus may play a key role.

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