The presentation, clinical course, and long-term follow-up (3-22 years) of 39 children with dermatomyositis followed from 1962-1982 is presented. The medical course of these patients was complicated by respiratory diseases (20%), gastrointestinal diseases (24%), and calcinosis (30%). Patients presenting prior to 1972 received a wide variety of treatments. Since 1972, treatment has consisted of long-term prednisone, supplemented in some patients with azathioprine. Ten patients died (eight of whom were first seen before 1972) of complications after intestinal perforation (5) or aspiration pneumonia (5). Of 29 survivors, three have persistent calcinosis and/or contractures. Improved outcome since 1972 probably relates to better clinical assessment, management of complications, and regulation of drug therapy.