Diaphragm atrophy and weakness occur after administration of massive doses of corticosteroids for short periods. In the present study the effects of prolonged administration of moderate doses of fluorinated and nonfluorinated steroids were investigated on contractile properties and histopathology of rat diaphragm. 60 rats received saline, 1.0 mg/kg triamcinolone, or 1.25 or 5 mg/kg i.m. prednisolone daily for 4 wk. Respiratory and peripheral muscle mass increased similarly in control and both prednisolone groups, whereas triamcinolone caused severe muscle wasting. Maximal tetanic tension averaged 2.23 +/- 0.54 kg/cm2 (SD) in the control group. An increased number of diaphragmatic bundles in the 5-mg/kg prednisolone group generated maximal tetanic tensions < 2.0 kg/cm2 (P < 0.05). In addition, fatigability during the force-frequency protocol was most pronounced in this group (P < 0.05). In contrast, triamcinolone caused a prolonged half-relaxation time and a leftward shift of the force-frequency curve (P < 0.05). Histological examination of the diaphragm showed a normal pattern in the control and 1.25-mg/kg prednisolone group. Myogenic changes, however, were found in the 5-mg/kg prednisolone group and, more pronounced, in the triamcinolone group. Selective type IIb fiber atrophy was found in the latter group, but not in the prednisolone groups. In conclusion, triamcinolone induced type IIb fiber atrophy, resulting in reduced respiratory muscle strength and a leftward shift of the force-frequency curve. In contrast, 5 mg/kg prednisolone caused alterations in diaphragmatic contractile properties and histological changes without fiber atrophy.


P N Dekhuijzen, G Gayan-Ramirez, V de Bock, R Dom, M Decramer


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