Life expectancy at birth in Duchenne muscular dystrophy: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur J Epidemiol. 2020 Jul;35(7):643-653. doi: 10.1007/s10654-020-00613-8. Epub 2020 Feb 27.


Several studies indicate that prognosis for survival in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has improved in recent decades. However, published evidence is inconclusive and some estimates may be obsolete due to improvements in standards of care, in particular the routine use of mechanical ventilatory support in advanced stages of the disease. In this systematic review and meta-analysis (PROSPERO identifier: CRD42019121800), we searched MEDLINE (through PubMed), CINAHL, Embase, PsycINFO, and Web of Science for studies published from inception up until December 31, 2018, reporting results of life expectancy in DMD. We pooled median survival estimates from individual studies using the median of medians, and weighted median of medians, methods. Risk of bias was established with the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale. Results were stratified by ventilatory support and risk of bias. We identified 15 publications involving 2662 patients from 12 countries from all inhabited continents except Africa. Median life expectancy without ventilatory support ranged between 14.4 and 27.0 years (pooled median: 19.0 years, 95% CI 18.0-20.9; weighted pooled median: 19.4 years, 18.2-20.1). Median life expectancy with ventilatory support, introduced in most settings in the 1990s, ranged between 21.0 and 39.6 years (pooled median: 29.9 years, 26.5-30.8; weighted pooled median: 31.8 years, 29.3-36.2). Risk of bias had little impact on pooled results. In conclusion, median life expectancy at birth in DMD seems to have improved considerably during the last decades. With current standards of care, many patients with DMD can now expect to live into their fourth decade of life.

Keywords: Mechanical ventilation; Mortality; Prognosis; Survival.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy*
  • Male
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / mortality*
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / psychology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne / therapy
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Survival