Background: Prednisone treatment is used to prolong ambulation in patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). However, since severe adverse effects often accompany prednisone treatment, it is debatable whether the benefits of prednisone treatment outweigh its adverse effects.
Objectives: To study the effects of prednisone on muscle function and to determine the extent of steroid-related adverse effects and their influence on the quality of life of ambulant patients with DMD.
Design: A randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial with 6 months of treatment: prednisone or placebo (0.75 mg/kg daily) during the first 10 days of each month. After a washout period of 2 months, patients received the other regimen for an additional 6 months.
Setting: University hospital and rehabilitation center in the Netherlands.
Patients: Seventeen ambulant patients with DMD aged 5 to 8 years.
Main outcome measure: Change in muscle function assessed by timed functional testing: running 9 m, climbing 4 standard-sized stairs, and rising from the floor to a standing position.
Results: The increase in time needed to run 9 m (P = .005) and to climb 4 standard-sized stairs (P = .02) was significantly lower during the prednisone period.
Conclusions: Prednisone slowed deterioration of muscle function and muscle force in ambulant patients with DMD. Although adverse effects were present, patient quality of life was not affected. Therefore, short-term prednisone treatment can be recommended to preserve motor functions in ambulant patients with DMD.