OBJECTIVE: Corticosteroids are commonly used for treating nerve damage in leprosy. We assessed the effectiveness of corticosteroids for treating nerve damage due to leprosy. METHODS: A systematic search was undertaken to identify randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing corticosteroids with placebo or with no treatment. Two authors independently assessed quality and extracted data. Where it was not possible to perform a meta-analysis, the data for each trial was summarised. RESULTS: Three RCTs involving 513 people were found. Two trials compared prednisolone with placebo. One trial treated mild sensory impairment of less than 6 months duration and the other trial treated nerve function impairment of 6 to 24 months duration. Both trials examined nerve function improvement 12 months from the start of treatment, but found no significant difference between the two groups. The third trial compared three corticosteroid regimens for severe type 1 reactions. After 12 months, a significantly higher proportion of individuals on a 3 month course required extra corticosteroids compared to the groups with a high-dose and low-dose regimen of 5 months duration. Diabetes and peptic or infected ulcers were not significantly more often reported in the corticosteroid compared to the placebo group. CONCLUSIONS: Evidence from RCTs does not show a significant long-term effect for either long-standing nerve function impairment or mild sensory impairment. A 5 month corticosteroid regimen was significantly more beneficial than a 3 month corticosteroid regimen. Further RCTs are needed to establish the effectiveness and optimal regimens of corticosteroids and to examine new therapies.

Leprosy Review
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

van Veen, N., Nicholls, P., Smith, C., & Richardus, J. H. (2009). Corticosteroids for treating nerve damage in leprosy. A Cochrane review. Leprosy Review, 79(4), 361–371. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/16000