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Pulse corticosteroid therapy for alopecia areata in children: a retrospective study.

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: Alopecia areata may occur at any age, though usually before the age of 20 years. Treatment often consists of systemic steroids administered as high-dose bolus infusions. This study sought to investigate the effectiveness and side effects of intravenous high-dose pulse corticosteroids in children with alopecia areata and to identify prognostic factors for successful treatment.

METHODS: Patients treated with pulse corticosteroids for alopecia areata in 2001-2008 at the day care unit of a tertiary pediatric medical center were identified by computerized file search and clinical treatment and outcome data were collected.

RESULTS: The sample included 24 children (16 female, 8 male) with a mean age of 8.5 ± 4.6 years at diagnosis; 8 (33%) had multifocal disease,10 (42%) multifocal disease with ophiasis, 4 (17%) alopecia totalis and 2 (8%) alopecia universalis. Nail involvement was noted in 9 patients (38%). Mean duration of disease was 22 ± 27 months. Patients were treated with 8 mg/kg body weight intravenous methylprednisolone on 3 consecutive days at 1-month intervals. After a mean of 5.65 ± 1.95 courses, 9 patients (38%) had a complete response, 7 (29%) a partial response and 8 (33%) no response. Of the 16 responders, 13 (81%) relapsed at 9.5 ± 12 months after the last course; 3 patients had side effects, none of which were severe. Three positive prognostic factors were identified: short disease duration (≤6 months), younger age at disease onset (<10 years) and multifocal disease (as opposed to severe, diffuse variants).

CONCLUSIONS: Careful patient selection is necessary to achieve maximal benefit from pulse corticosteroid treatment for alopecia areata in children.

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