Corticosteroid therapy for nephrotic syndrome in children

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;(1):CD001533. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001533.pub3.


Background: In nephrotic syndrome protein leaks from the blood to the urine through the glomeruli resulting in hypoproteinaemia and generalised oedema. While the majority of children with nephrotic syndrome respond to corticosteroids, 70% experience a relapsing course. Corticosteroid usage has reduced the mortality rate to around 3%, however they have known serious adverse effects.

Objectives: To determine the benefits and harms of corticosteroid regimens in preventing relapse in children with steroid sensitive nephrotic syndrome (SSNS).

Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Cochrane Renal Group Specialised Register, MEDLINE and EMBASE without language restriction, reference lists of articles, abstracts from conference proceedings and contact with known investigators. Date of most recent search: October 2004

Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials performed in children (three months to 18 years) in their initial or subsequent episode of SSNS, comparing different durations, total doses or other dose strategies using any corticosteroid agent, with outcome data at six months or more.

Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. Statistical analyses were performed using a random effects model and results expressed as relative risk (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI).Meta-regression was used to explore potential between-study differences due to baseline risk of relapse, study quality and interventions.

Main results: Nineteen trials were identified. Six trials comparing two months of prednisone with three months or more in the first episode showed longer duration significantly reduced the risk of relapse at 12 to 24 months (RR 0.70; 95% CI 0.58 to 0.84). There was an inverse linear relationship between treatment duration and risk of relapse (RR = 1.26 - 0.112 duration; P = 0.03). There was a significant reduction in the number of frequent relapsers and the mean relapse rate/patient/year. Deflazacort was significantly more effective in maintaining remission than prednisone in children who frequently relapsed (RR 0.44; 95% CI 0.25 to 0.78). There were no increases in adverse events.

Authors' conclusions: Children in their first episode of SSNS should be treated for at least three months with an increase in benefit being demonstrated for up to seven months of treatment For a baseline risk for relapse following the first episode of 60% with two months of prednisone, daily prednisone for four weeks followed by alternate-day therapy for six months would reduce the number of children relapsing by 33%. Deflazacort deserves further study for frequent relapsers.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Pregnenediones / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Secondary Prevention


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Pregnenediones
  • Prednisone