May 8, 2007 Boys with Duchenne muscular dystrophy were able to walk on their own for a longer period of time and reduce their risk of scoliosis as a result of receiving daily steroid treatments for several years, according to a study published in the May 8, 2007, issue of Neurology®, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Duchenne muscular dystrophy occurs in one in 3,500 boys. Symptoms start in early childhood and rapidly progress with most boys losing the ability to walk between ages nine and 11. There is no cure for the disorder.
For the study, researchers reviewed records of 143 boys seen at the Ohio State University Muscular Dystrophy Clinic in Columbus. Of the group, 75 had been treated with corticosteroids for an average of eight years and the rest of the boys had never been treated or had received a brief dose of steroids.
The study found boys who were treated with daily steroids walked by themselves 3.3 years longer than the untreated boys and had a lower rate of scoliosis, 31 percent compared to 91 percent.
"Previous studies have shown steroids improve strength and function in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, but this is the first study to show the long-term impact and how treated boys are able to walk longer on their own," said study author Wendy King, PT, with the Department of Neurology at Ohio State University Medical Center, and member of the American Academy of Neurology.
However, the study found those boys being treated with daily steroids had an increased risk of vertebral and leg fractures. Vertebral fractures occurred in 32 percent of the boys treated with steroids, whereas there were no fractures reported in the untreated group. Leg fractures were 2.6 times more common in the steroid-treated group. King said this may be due to increased body weight and that the treated boys walked longer than the untreated group.
"The benefits of steroids come at a cost of the side effects, and patients and parents need to weigh the benefits and risk of steroid treatments in order to make an informed decision," said King.
The study is supported by the General Clinical Research Center at Ohio State University and the National Center of Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health.
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