The ability of children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) to climb stairs should be assessed every nine months or longer, and their ability to descend stairs should be assessed annually, according to a new study published in the Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy.
The study is important because despite excellent results regarding the reliability of functional evaluation scale in DMD (FES-DMD), the appropriate assessment intervals had not previously been established.
Evaluating the patients’ ability to ascend and descend stairs at the right intervals to see the greatest responsiveness (or clinical change) can help measure the progression of the condition. It can also help assess the effect of any therapies.
The study, “Responsiveness of the domain climbing up and going down stairs of the Functional Evaluation scale for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: a one-year follow-up,” was led by Dr. Fátima Aparecida Caromano, of the Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo.
A total of 26 children ages 6 to 10 with a molecular diagnosis of DMD were included in the study. Researchers evaluated the ability of each child to climb and descend stairs every three months for one year.
Responsiveness, which detects the clinical changes over time due to disease progression, was assessed at three, six, nine, and 12 months.
The results showed that for climbing stairs, responsiveness was low in the three-month assessments, low to moderate in the six-month assessments, moderate at nine-months, and high at the 12-month assessment.
For going down stairs, responsiveness was low at the three- and six-month assessments, low to moderate at nine months, and moderate at 12 months.
The researchers concluded that the ability to climb stairs should be evaluated at least at nine months intervals, while the ability to go down stairs should be assessed annually, since these are the intervals that show the greatest responsiveness.
Duchenne MD is characterized by loss of muscle tissue, primarily affecting the legs. This is manifested by difficulty climbing stairs, running, and getting up from the floor. Evaluation scales are widely used in the clinic and for research purposes in order to assess the functional abilities of people with DMD and how these change as the condition progresses.