Corticosteroids for chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy

Richard A.C. Hughes*, Man Mohan Mehndiratta, Yusuf A. Rajabally

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP) is a progressive or relapsing and remitting paralysing illness, probably due to an autoimmune response, which should benefit from corticosteroid treatment. Non-randomised studies suggest that corticosteroids are beneficial. Two commonly used corticosteroids are prednisone and prednisolone. Both are usually given as oral tablets. Prednisone is converted into prednisolone in the liver so that the effect of the two drugs is usually the same. Another corticosteroid, dexamethasone, is more potent and is used in smaller doses. The review was first published in 2001 and last updated in 2015; we undertook this update to identify any new evidence. Objectives: To assess the effects of corticosteroid treatment for CIDP compared to placebo or no treatment, and to compare the effects of different corticosteroid regimens. Search methods: On 8 November 2016, we searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Specialised Register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, and Embase for randomised trials of corticosteroids for CIDP. We searched clinical trials registries for ongoing trials. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs of treatment with any corticosteroid or adrenocorticotrophic hormone for CIDP, diagnosed by an internationally accepted definition. Data collection and analysis: Two authors extracted data from included studies and assessed the risk of bias independently. The intended primary outcome was change in disability, with change in impairment after 12 weeks and side effects as secondary outcomes. We assessed strength of evidence using the GRADE approach. Main results: One non-blinded RCT comparing prednisone with no treatment in 35 eligible participants did not measure the primary outcome for this systematic review. The trial had a high risk of bias. Neuropathy Impairment Scale scores after 12 weeks improved in 12 of 19 participants randomised to prednisone, compared with five of 16 participants randomised to no treatment (risk ratio (RR) for improvement 2.02 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.90 to 4.52; very low-quality evidence). The trial did not report side effects in detail, but one prednisone-treated participant died. A double-blind RCT comparing daily standard-dose oral prednisolone with monthly high-dose oral dexamethasone in 40 participants reported none of the prespecified outcomes for this review. The trial had a low risk of bias, but the quality of evidence was limited as it came from a single small study. There was little or no difference in number of participants who achieved remission (RR 1.11; 95% CI 0.50 to 2.45 in favour of monthly dexamethasone; moderate-quality evidence), or change in disability or impairment after one year (low-quality evidence). Change of grip strength or Medical Research Council (MRC) scores demonstrated little or no difference between groups (moderate-quality to low-quality evidence). Eight of 16 people in the prednisolone group and seven of 24 people in the dexamethasone group deteriorated. Side effects were similar with each regimen, except that sleeplessness was less common with monthly dexamethasone (low-quality evidence) as was moon facies (moon-shaped appearance of the face) (moderate-quality evidence). Experience from large non-randomised studies suggests that corticosteroids are beneficial, but long-term use causes serious side effects. Authors' conclusions: We are very uncertain about the effects of oral prednisone compared with no treatment, because the quality of evidence from the only RCT that exists is very low. Nevertheless, corticosteroids are commonly used in practice, supported by very low-quality evidence from observational studies. We also know from observational studies that corticosteroids carry the long-term risk of serious side effects. The efficacy of high-dose monthly oral dexamethasone is probably little different from that of daily standard-dose oral prednisolone. Most side effects occurred with similar frequencies in both groups, but with high-dose monthly oral dexamethasone moon facies is probably less common and sleeplessness may be less common than with oral prednisolone. We need further research to identify factors that predict response.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD002062
JournalCochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
Issue number11
Early online date29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright:Cochrane Collaboration


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