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Treatment options for duchenne muscular dystrophy

Publication year
Ciafaloni, E.; Moxley, R. T.

The main goal in the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is to maintain ambulation for as long as possible and to anticipate and manage the associated complications, such as joint contractures, scoliosis, cardiomyopathy, respiratory insufficiency, and weight gain. Cognitive and behavioral symptoms occur in about one third of patients, and it is important to recognize and manage them promptly, developing an individualized plan at school and at home to maximize the patient’s cognitive abilities. In the late phase of the disease, palliative care is of paramount importance. Corticosteroid therapy (prednisone and deflazacort) is the only effective pharmacologic treatment for DMD. Daily prednisone treatment increases muscle strength and function, improves pulmonary function, and significantly slows the progression of weakness. Deflazacort has a similar effect on muscle strength, but it is not available in the United States. Treatment with corticosteroid should be offered to all patients with DMD, but the beneficial effects and potential adverse effects should be fully discussed before treatment begins. The optimal dose of prednisone is 0.75 mg/kg per day, up to a maximum of 40 mg/d. If adverse effects occur, a decrease in dosage is appropriate. Monitoring of muscle function and adverse effects by a neurologist or neuromuscular specialist is strongly recommended. Physical and occupational therapists should be involved early in the treatment of patients with DMD to develop a program that includes heel cord stretching and exercise. In the later phases, these therapists can recommend adaptive equipment and maximize independence. Orthopedic consultation is important in monitoring and managing scoliosis and joint contractures in the nonambulatory phase of the disease. Pulmonary evaluation for ventilatory care is important; pulmonary consultation is essential when vital capacity declines. The use of assistive cough devices, nasal bilevel positive airway pressure, and tracheostomy must be discussed with patients and their families. For all patients with DMD, particularly those receiving prednisone, consultation with a dietitian is very helpful to control weight and maintain a healthy diet.

Research abstracts