OBJECTIVE: To understand the natural disease upper limb progression over 3 years of ambulatory and non-ambulatory patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) using functional assessments and quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and to exploratively identify prognostic factors. METHODS: Forty boys with DMD (22 non-ambulatory and 18 ambulatory) with deletions in dystrophin that make them eligible for exon 53-skipping therapy were included. Clinical assessments, including Brooke score, motor function measure (MFM), hand grip and key pinch strength, and upper limb distal coordination and endurance (MoviPlate), were performed every 6 months and quantitative MRI of fat fraction (FF) and lean muscle cross sectional area (flexor and extensor muscles) were performed yearly. RESULTS: In the whole population, there were strong nonlinear correlations between outcome measures. In non-ambulatory patients, annual changes over the course of 3 years were detected with high sensitivity standard response mean (|SRM| ≥0.8) for quantitative MRI-based FF, hand grip and key pinch, and MFM. Boys who presented with a FF<20% and a grip strength >27% were able to bring a glass to their mouth and retained this ability in the following 3 years. Ambulatory patients with grip strength >35% of predicted value and FF <10% retained ambulation 3 years later. INTERPRETATION: We demonstrate that continuous decline in upper limb strength, function, and MRI measured muscle structure can be reliably measured in ambulatory and non-ambulatory boys with DMD with high SRM and strong correlations between outcomes. Our results suggest that a combination of grip strength and FF can be used to predict important motor milestones.
Ann Clin Transl Neurol