Progression of spinal deformity in wheelchair-dependent patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who are not treated with steroids

coronal plane (scoliosis) and sagittal plane (kyphosis, lordosis) deformity

F. Shapiro, D. Zurakowski, T. Bui, B. T. Darras


We determined the frequency, rate and extent of development of scoliosis (coronal plane deformity) in wheelchair-dependent patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) who were not receiving steroid treatment. We also assessed kyphosis and lordosis (sagittal plane deformity). The extent of scoliosis was assessed on sitting anteroposterior (AP) spinal radiographs in 88 consecutive non-ambulatory patients with DMD. Radiographs were studied from the time the patients became wheelchair-dependent until the time of spinal fusion, or the latest assessment if surgery was not undertaken. Progression was estimated using a longitudinal mixed-model regression analysis to handle repeated measurements.

Scoliosis ≥ 10° occurred in 85 of 88 patients (97%), ≥ 20° in 78 of 88 (89%) and ≥ 30° in 66 of 88 patients (75%). The fitted longitudinal model revealed that time in a wheelchair was a highly significant predictor of the magnitude of the curve, independent of the age of the patient (p < 0.001). Scoliosis developed in virtually all DMD patients not receiving steroids once they became wheelchair-dependent, and the degree of deformity deteriorated over time.

In general, scoliosis increased at a constant rate, beginning at the time of wheelchair-dependency (p < 0.001). In some there was no scoliosis for as long as three years after dependency, but scoliosis then developed and increased at a constant rate. Some patients showed a rapid increase in the rate of progression of the curve after a few years – the clinical phenomenon of a rapidly collapsing curve over a few months.

A sagittal plane kyphotic deformity was seen in 37 of 60 patients (62%) with appropriate radiographs, with 23 (38%) showing lumbar lordosis (16 (27%) abnormal and seven (11%) normal).

This study provides a baseline to assess the effects of steroids and other forms of treatment on the natural history of scoliosis in patients with DMD, and an approach to assessing spinal deformity in the coronal and sagittal planes in wheelchair-dependent patients with other neuromuscular disorders.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2014;96-B:100–5.


  • No benefits in any form have been received or will be received from a commercial party related directly or indirectly to the subject of this article.

    This article was primary edited by S. P. H. Hughes and first-proof edited by J. Scott.

  • Supplementary material. A table detailing the literature on scoliosis progression in wheelchair-dependent patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is available alongside the electronic version of this article on our website

  • Received April 1, 2013.
  • Accepted August 20, 2013.
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