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Creatine for treating muscle disorders.

BACKGROUND: Progressive muscle weakness is a main symptom of most hereditary and acquired muscle diseases. Creatine improves muscle performance in healthy individuals. This is an update of our 2007 Cochrane review that evaluated creatine treatment in muscle disorders.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the efficacy of creatine compared to placebo for the treatment of muscle weakness in muscle diseases.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register (4 October 2010), the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (11 October 2010, Issue 4, 2010 in The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (January 1966 to September 2010) and EMBASE (January 1980 to September 2010) for randomised controlled trials (RCT) of creatine used to treat muscle diseases.

SELECTION CRITERIA: RCTs or quasi-RCTs of creatine treatment compared to placebo in hereditary muscle diseases or idiopathic inflammatory myopathies.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two authors independently applied the selection criteria, assessed trial quality and extracted data. We obtained missing data from investigators.

MAIN RESULTS: The updated searches identified two new studies. A total of 14 trials, including 364 randomised participants, met the selection criteria. Meta-analysis of six trials in muscular dystrophies including 192 participants revealed a significant increase in muscle strength in the creatine group compared to placebo, with a weighted mean difference of 8.47%; (95% confidence intervals (CI) 3.55 to 13.38). Pooled data of four trials including 115 participants showed that a significantly higher number of patients felt better during creatine treatment compared to placebo with a risk ratio of 4.51 (95% CI 2.33 to 8.74). One trial in 37 participants with idiopathic inflammatory myopathies also showed a significant improvement in functional performance. No trial reported any clinically relevant adverse event. In metabolic myopathies, meta-analyses of three cross-over trials including 33 participants revealed no significant difference in muscle strength. One trial reported a significant deterioration of ADL (mean difference 0.54 on a 1 to 10 scale; 95% CI 0.14 to 0.93) and an increase in muscle pain during high-dose creatine treatment in McArdle disease.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: High quality evidence from RCTs shows that short- and medium-term creatine treatment increases muscle strength in muscular dystrophies. There is also evidence that creatine improves functional performance in muscular dystrophy and idiopathic inflammatory myopathy. Creatine is well tolerated in these people. High quality but limited evidence from RCTs does not show significant improvement in muscle strength in metabolic myopathies. High-dose creatine treatment impaired ADL and increased muscle pain in McArdle disease.

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