Background: Prednisone and methylprednisolone are well absorbed orally and have lower treatment costs than IV methylprednisolone, but concern that low-dose corticosteroid may cause increased disease activity and that high oral doses may cause gastric ulceration inhibits use of oral therapy for MS attacks.
Methods: Gastric mucosal injury, detected by measurement of gastric permeability, was examined after five alternate day doses of IV methylprednisolone (1 g) or oral prednisone (1,250 mg) in 21 patients with MS. A triple sugar test solution was consumed at bedtime, and urine was collected overnight. Urine sugar concentrations were determined by high-pressure liquid chromatography. Gastric permeability was expressed as total mg of sucrose excreted.
Results: Seventeen patients completed the protocol (12 oral, 5 IV). Baseline sucrose excretion was normal in all. Both groups demonstrated an increase in gastric permeability after steroid treatment, but there was no difference between the two groups (95% CI 95 to 91 mg, p = 0.96). After treatment, three (25%) patients in the oral group, and two (40%) patients the IV group, had modestly abnormal gastric permeability (95% CI 34 to 64%, P = 0.6).
Conclusions: Short-term high-dose oral prednisone is not associated with greater gastric damage, as measured with permeability tests, than IV methylprednisolone. High-dose oral prednisone should be considered a first-line treatment option for MS attacks.