Background It is common knowledge that treatment with steroids is accompanied by muscle wasting. However, only very limited data on the effect of steroids on muscle strength in RA are available in the literature.
Objectives We examined the effect of cumulative and current prednisolone dose on leg muscle strength in women with RA.
Methods Seventy-five women with RA according to the 1987 ACR criteria were included. Mean age was 62 ± 13 years, median disease duration 11 (1–51) years. Sixty-three were or had been on steroids [median cumulative prednisolone dose (CPD) 2.5 (0.05–66) g]. Maximal voluntary knee extensor strength (KES) and flexor strength (KFS) (Nm) were assessed at 30o/s by an isokinetic dynamometer. Based on the 25th and 75th centiles of the distribution of CPD, the women were stratified into those who had received a) 100 mg prednisolone or less (n = 21, median CPD = 0 mg), b) more than 100 mg but less than 6095 mg prednisolone (n = 35, median CPD = 2000 mg), and c) 6095 mg or more (n = 19, median CPD = 10771 mg). Adjustment for between-group differences in age, height, weight and disease duration was performed using ANOVA with correction for covariates.
Results The following adjusted mean values for KES were found (low, central and high CPD range): 84 Nm, 76 Nm and 80 Nm (ns). The corresponding values for KFS were 44 Nm, 42 Nm and 42 Nm (ns).
In currently treated subjects (n = 25) adjusted mean values for KES and KFS were 75 Nm and 39 Nm, respectively, vs. 70 Nm and 33 Nm in never-treated subjects (n = 12) (ns).
Conclusion In conclusion, muscle strength was not associated with cumulative or current steroid dose in women with RA.
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