For Healthcare Providers

Care for people living with Duchenne includes a multidisciplinary team of professionals providing coordinated, comprehensive care. While the Duchenne Care Considerations offer details of the surveillance and management of each medical subspecialty area of care, PPMD has additional tools and resources that may be helpful to you. Please let us know if there are tools and/or resources that you do not see, that you feel might be helpful.

Caring for Duchenne

Care Consideration Guidelines

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released their initial guidelines for the care of people living with Duchenne in 2010, and their updated guidelines in 2018. These comprehensive guidelines, known as the “Care Considerations,” can be found in 3 volumes of The Lancet, linked to on our Care Guidelines page. A “family-friendly” guide for patients can be found here as well. 

Care Imperatives


Imperatives for Duchenne MD is a very focused and very brief, single-page snapshot of the imperative components of comprehensive pediatric Duchenne care as described in the Care Considerations. This document is intended as a snapshot of care from diagnosis through early adolescence, helpful for medical providers who may not be familiar with this diagnosis.

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Imperatives – For Adults

The Adult Imperatives for Duchenne MD describes the imperative components of transitions of care across late adolescence and adulthood as described in the Care Considerations. This document is intended as a brief, single page snapshot of care, helpful for medical providers who may not be familiar with caring for adult men living with Duchenne.

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Neuromuscular Management

Neuromuscular care should begin at diagnosis and continue throughout the lifespan. In order for comprehensive care to remain integrated, the neuromuscular specialist (NMS) should function as the lead clinician and, with a care coordinator, weave care and communication together for the family, PCP, local providers and the neuromuscular care team.

In addition to organizing comprehensive care, there are a number of areas that the NMS generally assumes responsibility for.


Steroids remain the current gold standard for Duchenne treatment. Guidelines for steroid use and management can be found on the steroids care page.

Stress dosing

Patients taking chronic daily steroids are often found to have ineffective cortisol coverage, which can lead to adrenal crisis, in the case of a severe injury or illness, or during a surgical experience. The PJ Nicholoff Steroid protocol was developed, and published, to address all issues around steroid associated issues.  This protocol includes:

  • Defining HPA suppression in a patient using corticosteroids (which patients are likely to be suppressed and which are not)
  • Appropriate corticosteroid stress doses for minor, moderate, and major stressors
  • Recommendations for corticosteroid withdrawal
  • How to test the HPA axis for continued suppression
  • Symptoms of adrenal crisis
  • Tests that can help diagnose adrenal crisis
  • Corticosteroid conversions/equivalent doses

A video describing both the development of this protocol, as well as the need for transition care in Duchenne, can be found here: VIDEO: PJ Nicholoff Steroid Protocol

Explaining Missed Steroid Doses with families
Why does it matter if a dose of corticosteroids is missed?

When a person takes regular doses of corticosteroids, the adrenal glands become inactive – because the body realizes the cortisol is coming from elsewhere (from oral corticosteroids), the adrenal glands do not need to release cortisol, so they temporarily stop doing so. This disables the HPA axis and the body’s ability to deal with stress. For this reason, it is important that people taking corticosteroid not miss their doses for more than 24 hours. They may also need a higher dose, or a “stress dose,” of corticosteroids with extreme stress, such as severe illness, surgery, or trauma.

What happens if the body doesn’t have enough cortisol?

There are really only three ways a person who takes corticosteroids regularly would not have an appropriate level of cortisol in their body:

  1. The corticosteroid dose was purposefully not given or received (i.e., patient or parent decides to abruptly discontinue steroids)
  2. The corticosteroid dose was accidentally not given (i.e., vomiting >24 hours, hospitalization without continuation of medication, etc.)
  3. The corticosteroid dose is not adequate to provide the body with enough energy during a stressful event (i.e., surgery, severe illness, etc.)

Not having appropriate levels of cortisol in the body, daily or during episodes of “stress,” can cause the body to experience symptoms of acute adrenal insufficiency, or adrenal crisis, which can be life-threatening.


Vaccinations should also be up to date, as a rule and prior to starting steroids. PPMD worked with the CDC to develop vaccination guidelines for people living with Duchenne, including recommendations around steroid use. Those recommendations can be found on our Vaccinations page.

Medical Alert IDs

Many families ask about medical alert jewelry. Learn more about the important medical information PPMD recommends engraving.

Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation, and Orthopedics

From diagnosis, Physical Therapy is important to the maintenance, and enhancement of function, strength and range of motion. Obtaining longitudinal measurements of these parameters, using consistent evaluation tools, is critical. We have created resources that will help you to educate yourself, your colleagues and your families in the provision of this important aspect of care.

Physical Therapy and Stretching

The recommendations for physical therapy in Duchenne are much different that in diagnosis where the goals are improving strength and function. In Duchenne, the goals are preserving strength and function, and maintaining range of motion. The specifics of how to both provide physical therapy to families, and teach families to provide stretching at home, can be found on our physical therapy page.


A common request from families is what is appropriate exercise, what might cause harm and how active should I safely let my child be?   

  • Exercise can help young men by building skeletal muscles and improving physical and overall health. Keep in mind that too much exercise can harm the muscles; never let a boy with Duchenne exert himself to the point of exhaustion.
  • Swimming is the very best form of therapy.  The professionals at Wave Therapies can help you to develop an appropriate program for your patients and families.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measure Demonstrations

There are several PT measures that are used widely in the evaluation of clinical trials.  Two of those measures are the North Star Ambulatory Assessment (NSAA) and the Performance of Upper Limb (PUL).  A group of PT’s who are global experts in clinical trial outcome assessment, together determined the best methods for obtaining the NSAA and the PUL. Videos of these 2 outcome measures may be appropriate to share with professionals expected to obtain these measures, as well as with parents/children who will be expected to perform these measures. Videos describing the performance and evaluation of these measures can be found here:

Orthopedic Complications

There are several unique orthopedic complications that occur in Duchenne. These issues, as well as surveillance, management and prevention, are included in this 1 hour webinar: VIDEO: Orthopedic Complications in Duchenne Webinar as well as on the care pages addressing orthopedic issues.


Cardiac care should begin with diagnosis and extend throughout the lifespan.  The recommendations for cardiac care across the lifespan can be found on our Cardiac care page

PPMD has also developed a four-part series of webinars describing that care.


Many families are unsure what medications are needed or, if they have been prescribed, the reason for those medications. Here is a list of recommended medications for heart failure.

Meetings and Publications

PPMD has convened several meetings around the surveillance of cardiomyopathy and the management of heart failure. Information regarding recommendations for cardiac care can be found here.  

  • In 2014, PPMD and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute convened a meeting evaluating Contemporary Issues in Duchenne Cardiology. The summary of that meeting was published, and can be found hereThe results informed the CDC Cardiac Care recommendations.
  • In 2016, a second meeting discussing the progression of Duchenne cardiomyopathy presenting with chest pain and troponin elevation was convened.  A case study of patients from one institution was published and can be found here.
  • A two-year study described in a new paper titled “Myocardial Fibrosis Progression in Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophy” substantiates those recommendations. The randomized study of 76 Duchenne (70) and Becker (6) patients showed the importance of cardiac MRI in detecting cardiac fibrosis and demonstrated that starting ACE inhibitor therapy significantly slowed the progression of fibrosis, thus preserving cardiac function longer. Because fibrosis occurs much sooner than cardiac dysfunction, and because it is not possible to see fibrosis by imaging the heart with echosonography, we hope that this paper will further validate the need for at least annual cardiac surveillance using MRI in patients living with Duchenne or Becker.

Pulmonary Care

Pulmonary care should begin at diagnosis and continue throughout the lifespan. Specific recommendations for pulmonary surveillance and management can be found here.

Endocrine and Bone Health

Endocrine care includes care for growth, puberty and bone health. Each of those sections can be found on these pages:

PPMD convened a meeting to discuss osteoporosis and Bone Health in Duchenne. The published summary of that meeting can be found here: 28756052.

Fat Embolism Syndrome

Although rare, fat embolism syndrome (FES) should be considered if shortness of breath or neurological symptoms develop after falls, fractures, or other trauma. More information on the diagnosis and management of FES, can be found here.

Psychosocial Care

An important part of comprehensive care includes addressing the psychosocial issues important to the mental and emotional health of both patients and families.  While many patients will have no issues at all, many will have behavior, emotional, learning and relationship issues that will need to be addressed at different times in life.

A discussion of psychosocial care can be found in the Learning & Behavior section of our website. References that include both professional and family education and resources include:

Tools for Mental Health Evaluation

Referenced in “The Diagnosis and Management of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy: Part 3: primary care, emergency management, psychosocial care, and transitions of care across the lifespan” [PDF] are several professional tools to assist in the evaluation of psychosocial issues.

  • Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire: Evaluation of mental health issues in children (Goodman R. The strengths and difficulties questionnaire:a research note. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 1997; 38: 581–86.)
  • Personal Adjustment and Role Skills Scale (PARS III): For parents of patients ages 5-17 years old
  • Patient Health Questionnaire, 9 items (PHQ 9): For adults; 9 questions to evaluate depression (Kroenke K, Spitzer RL, Williams JB. The PHQ­9: validity of a brief depression severity measure. J Gen Intern Med 2001; 16: 606–13. )
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder, 7 items (GAD-7): For adults; 7 questions to evaluate anxiety (Spitzer RL, Kroenke K, Williams JB, Lowe B. A brief measure for assessing generalized anxiety disorder: the GAD­7. Arch Intern Med 2006; 166: 1092–97.)

Any positive findings should elicit a referral to a professional who can formally assess and treat the patient and family.  Each center evaluating mental health should have a plan to address suicidality, should the need arise.

Emergency Care

Normal health issues in Duchenne can quickly turn into emergencies. There are several areas of emergency care that are specific to Duchenne. Please refer to these pages for each of these areas: