Neurological manifestations of chronic hepatitis C

J Neurol. 1999 Jun;246(6):486-91. doi: 10.1007/s004150050388.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is often associated with abnormal immunological responses. We describe four patients with vasculitic neurological signs and symptoms following HCV infection. A 56-year-old woman with HCV infection developed peripheral neuropathy characterized by asymmetric distal painful hypesthesia, dysesthesia and moderate motor weakness of the lower limbs. Serological examinations revealed cryoglobulinemia and low levels of complement C4. A biopsy of the sural nerve revealed vasculitic neuropathy. HCV infection associated immunomediated vasculitis was diagnosed. While steroid therapy was ineffective, treatment with interferon-alpha improved the neuropathy considerably without, however, eliminating HCV infection. A 62-year-old man with HCV infection developed peripheral sensory neuropathy. Complement C3 was slightly diminished. Nerve biopsy revealed vasculitic neuropathy. A 71-year-old woman developed chronic symmetric sensomotor polyneuropathy. HCV hepatitis followed blood transfusions. Cryoglobulins tested positive, consistent with type II cryoglobulinemia. Complements C3 and C4 were diminished. Inflammatory infiltrates in the sural nerve biopsy specimen led to the diagnosis of chronic vasculitic disorder. A 55-year-old woman with HCV infection developed vasculitis of the skin, connective tissue, visceral organs, and kidney, leading to hemodialysis. Neurologically she developed severe apathy and drowsiness, myoclonic jerks, exaggerated deep tendon reflexes, and positive pyramidal signs. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain showed diffuse increased signal abnormalities involving supra- and infratentorial white matter suggesting cerebral vasculitis. Cryoglobulins were positive, complements C3 and C4 slightly diminished (54 mg/dl, 4.3 mg/dl). Supportive therapy resulted in neurological improvement. Treatment with interferon-alpha was discontinued because of agranulocytosis. In patients with peripheral neuropathy or signs of leucencephalopathy, a hepatitis C associated vasculitis should be considered in the differential diagnosis.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Complement C3 / metabolism
  • Complement C4 / metabolism
  • Cryoglobulinemia / virology
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / complications*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / immunology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / virology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vasculitis / immunology
  • Vasculitis / pathology
  • Vasculitis / virology*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Complement C3
  • Complement C4
  • Interferon-alpha