Corticosteroid pulse therapy in active rheumatoid arthritis

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 1993 Dec;23(3):183-92. doi: 10.1016/s0049-0172(05)80039-3.


The infusion of high doses of corticosteroids (corticosteroid pulse therapy, CPT) is used to treat refractory rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In the first part of this article, literature on the efficacy of CPT is reviewed, and different CPT regimens (high-dose, low-dose, oral CPT) are compared. Several CPT regimens are beneficial in RA, the clinical effect lasting 4 to 10 weeks. Only high-dose CPT (1,000 mg methylprednisolone intravenously) has been shown to bridge the gap between the start and the effect (lag time) of a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug initiated at the same time. A retrospective study on the incidence of short-term and long-term side effects of CPT in 50 patients with RA who received a total of 78 pulse regimens is described in the second part. Side effects occurred frequently, but in most cases they were mild. The possible relationship between CPT and osteonecrosis of the femoral head is discussed. It is concluded that CPT is beneficial in RA. A substantial number of patients suffer side effects of varying severity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Cataract / chemically induced
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peptic Ulcer / chemically induced
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones