Anabolic steroids are derivatives of testosterone. Their exact physiologic effects on the respiratory system are unclear, but they have been studied as a possible treatment in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, especially for their role in potentially increasing muscle mass.
Anabolic steroids have potentially serious side effects, including effects on liver function, lipid profile and the reproductive system. The long-term safety of anabolic steroids such as oxandrolone in SCI has not been established.
There are two studies in the literature on the effects of anabolic steroids on pulmonary function in SCI. Spungen et al. (1999) treated 10 male subjects with motor complete C4-C5 tetraplegia with a one month course of oxandrolone, an oral anabolic steroid. Following oxandrolone, significant improvements were seen in weight gain, FVC, FEV1 and forced inspiratory vital capacity. There was a significant increase in MIP from baseline and a non-significant increase in maximal expiratory pressure (PE max). Subjects experienced a significant decrease in subjective dyspnea. There was no long-term follow-up of subjects to see if any of the improvements were permanent. Halstead et al. (2010) treated ten male subjects with motor complete tetraplegia with oxandrolone for 8 weeks and found non-significant improvements in lung function.
- The short-term use of oxandrolone can be considered to improve pulmonary function in subjects with tetraplegia.