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J Rheumatol. 1998 Jun;25(6):1198-204.

Juvenile dermatomyositis at diagnosis: clinical characteristics of 79 children.

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  • 1Division of Immunology, Children's Memorial Hospital/Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, Illinois 60614, USA.



To evaluate demographic and clinical characteristics, duration of time between disease onset (date of first rash and/or weakness), and diagnosis/therapy, as well as socioeconomic status, of children with newly diagnosed juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM).


Structured telephone interview of families of a cohort of 79 children with JDM: interval between onset of symptoms to diagnosis, median of 3 months (range 0.5-20.0).


At diagnosis, all the children had rash (100%) and proximal muscle weakness (100%); 58 (73%) had muscle pain; 51 (65%) fever; 35 (44%) dysphagia; 34 (43%) hoarseness; 29 (37%) abdominal pain; 28 (35%) arthritis; 18 (23%) calcinosis, and 10 (13%) melena. Muscle derived enzymes were normal in 10% of the children. Of the 43 children who had an electromyogram (EMG), 8 (19%) had normal results. Fifty-one children had a muscle biopsy; the results were normal/nondiagnostic in 10 (20%). Median time from disease onset to diagnosis was different between racial groups: Caucasians (n=59) 2.0 months: for minorities (n=20), 6.5 months, (p=0.0008). The median time from disease onset to therapy was: Caucasians. 3.0 months; minorities, 7.2 months (p=0.002). Report of calcinosis was associated with increased time to diagnosis and therapy (p=0.04). In the 33 children whose first symptom occurred in June-September, rash preceded or accompanied onset of muscle weakness in 83% (n=27). Ninety-one percent of the children were given steroid therapy and 9% received methotrexate as well.


The results of an undirected site for muscle biopsy or EMG may not be diagnostic. Minority children had a longer interval between first JDM symptom and diagnosis/therapy than Caucasian children. Delay in diagnosis/therapy was associated with calcinosis.

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