Objective: Except when the diagnosis of juvenile dermatomyositis (DM) is in doubt, a case has not been made for routine muscle biopsy (MB). We sought to determine whether MB findings prior to systemic therapy have prognostic value.
Methods: We reviewed the hospital records and slides prepared from the initial open MB of 72 patients treated at one center between 1977 and 2002 and followed for a minimum of 2 years. None of the patients had received a course of systemic corticosteroid therapy at the time of MB. Our approach to MB evaluation was based on recent discussions with muscle pathology experts to develop criteria for assessing inflammation, vasculopathy, myofiber atrophy, regeneration, acute and chronic myopathic change, and stromal changes. Using simple and multivariate logistic regression, we tested each MB parameter for ability to predict outcome using 2 published classification systems.
Results: Extensive active myopathic changes (excluding regeneration) and central nuclei without basophilia predicted chronic juvenile DM. Severe arteropathic change, positive arterial direct immunofluorescence, obvious foci of severe capillary loss/endomysial fibrosis, and muscle infarcts predicted chronic juvenile DM, particularly with ulceration. Other MB parameters, regardless of severity, were not significant predictors of chronic juvenile DM versus limited disease.
Conclusion: A scoring system for evaluating pretreatment MB in juvenile DM that focuses on extent of necrotizing myopathy, severity of vasculopathy, and features of established chronicity such as central nucleation of nonbasophilic myofibers may provide a basis for stratification of therapeutic regimens according to risk for chronic disease. The validity of our findings should be prospectively tested.