Background: Localized scleroderma (LS) or morphoea is often considered to be a benign self-limiting condition confined to the skin and subcutaneous tissue. However, the course of the disease is unpredictable and severe functional and cosmetic disability may result. Drug treatment with systemic corticosteroids in combination with methotrexate has been reported to be beneficial in LS, but data in children is limited.
Objectives: To evaluate the efficacy and tolerability of systemic corticosteroids in combination with methotrexate in children with LS.
Methods: Treatment and outcome of 34 patients with LS were retrospectively analysed. Pulsed intravenous methylprednisolone was given, followed by oral prednisolone on a reducing regimen and maintenance treatment with methotrexate. We assessed treatment outcome clinically and by thermography and monitored adverse events.
Results: From the onset of treatment, the disease stopped progressing in 94% of the patients. All patients demonstrated significant clinical improvement within a mean time of 5.7 +/- 3.9 months. Mean duration of follow-up over the treatment period and beyond was 2.9 +/- 2.0 years. In 16 (47%) patients therapy was discontinued when the disease was considered to be inactive clinically; however, seven (44%) of the 16 developed a relapse, necessitating repeat treatment. At last follow-up (range 0.2-7.0 years), 24 (71%) of the 34 patients had completely inactive disease. Observed adverse events were moderate and transient and no patient had to stop therapy.
Conclusions: These data suggest that systemic corticosteroids and methotrexate in combination are beneficial and well tolerated in the treatment of children with LS. Because of the risk of relapse after discontinuing therapy, long-term monitoring is mandatory.