Three head to head trials involving 148 patients (74 systemic corticosteroids; 74 comparator drugs) were included. Placebo-controlled trials were not found. In the studies, different kinds of systemic corticosteroids and different kinds of control drugs were used, both administered in different routes. Intramuscular triamcinolone acetonide was compared respectively to oral indomethacine, and intramuscular adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH); oral prednisolone (together with a single intramuscular diclophenac injection) was compared to oral indomethacine (together with a single placebo injection). Outcome measurements varied: average number of days until total relief of signs, mean decrease of pain per unit of time in mm on a visual analogue scale (VAS) - during rest and activity. In the triamcinolone-indomethacine trial the clinical joint status was used as an additional outcome . Clinically relevant differences between the studied systemic corticosteroids and the comparator drugs were not found; important safety problems attributable to the used corticosteroids were not reported. The quality of the three studies was graded as very low to moderate. Statistical pooling of results was not possible.
Osteoporosis is particularly common in smokers, postmenopausal women, the elderly, underweight or immobile, and patients with diabetes or lung problems. Osteoporosis may result in fractures of the spine, ribs or hip joint with minimal trauma. These occur after the first year in 10–20% of patients treated with more than mg prednisone daily. It is estimated that up to 50% of patients on long-term prednisone will develop bone fractures. Vertebral fractures are more common in patients on steroids, even in those with normal bone density.
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