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Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1997 Oct;16(10):984-90.

Side effects of alpha-interferon therapy and impact on health-related quality of life in children with chronic viral hepatitis.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Naples Federico II, Italy.



Interferon (IFN) is standard therapy for chronic viral hepatitis in children. The aim of this study was to evaluate the side effects of alpha-interferon (IFN) in 94 consecutive children (58 males; age range, 3 to 14 years) affected by chronic viral hepatitis treated with different schedules ranging from 3 to 10 MU and from 3 to 12 months, and the impact of this therapy on health-related quality of life.


Side effects were evaluated with clinical and laboratory examinations and were recorded on a diary card. The health-related quality of life was evaluated with a modified version of the Sickness Impact Profile.


All patients experienced at least one adverse reaction to IFN treatment; 80% had more than five side effects. There were no life-threatening reactions. Three children experienced severe reactions (febrile seizure, severe hypertransaminasemia and relapsing episodes of epistaxis, respectively) that required permanent IFN withdrawal. Another child had a febrile seizure requiring temporary IFN withdrawal. In seven children the neutrophil count fell below 1000/mm3 and promptly increased when IFN was temporarily discontinued. The remaining children had mild or moderate clinical and/or laboratory adverse reactions. Age, sex, viral etiology of chronic hepatitis and response to therapy were not significantly associated with the appearance of side effects. The pre-IFN health-related quality of life was good in all children; it deteriorated significantly during IFN therapy and returned to basal standards within 3 months after IFN withdrawal. No patient required suspension of IFN therapy because of worsening of health-related quality of life.


Children have a low risk of developing severe IFN-induced side effects. Adverse reactions and worsening of health-related quality of life were tolerable and did not seem to be a limiting factor for IFN therapy in young candidates.

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