Effect of dexamethasone on diaphragmatic and soleus muscle morphology and fatigability Academic Article uri icon


  • In spite of the extensive use of corticosteroids, its myopathic effect on respiratory muscle is unknown with relation to the dose and duration of therapy. The present study examined the effects of dexamethasone on the morphology and function of respiratory (diaphragm) as compared to skeletal (soleus) muscle. Control rats were compared to those that received low, high and prolonged doses of dexamethasone. Body mass was reduced proportionally to the dose and duration of therapy. Atrophy of the diaphragm was greater than that of the soleus when normalized to body mass. Absolute tension and tension as a function of cross sectional area was significantly (P less than 0.05) less in the diaphragm and soleus at the high and prolonged dosages. Dexamethasone had no effect on fatigability except in the soleus after prolonged treatment. Furthermore, after prolonged therapy, it had converse effects on the Pt and 1/2RT in the diaphragm as compared to the soleus muscle. Dexamethasone improved the recovery times in the diaphragm alone. Our data suggest that dexamethasone weakens the diaphragm and soleus by reducing its mass and apparently also through some effect on the intrinsic contractile apparatus.

publication date

  • January 1, 1991