Intravenous acyclovir and renal dysfunction in children: a matched case control study

J Pediatr. 2015 Jun;166(6):1462-8.e1-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.01.023. Epub 2015 Feb 21.


Objectives: A cluster of children receiving intravenous (IV) acyclovir for meningoencephalitis developed acute renal failure in April-May 2008, which prompted a retrospective case-control study to determine the rate of and risk factors for acute nephrotoxicity during IV acyclovir treatment in children.

Study design: The percentage decrease in glomerular filtration rate in children receiving IV acyclovir who had ≥ 1 creatinine measurement after acyclovir initiation from October 2006 to January 2009 was classified as renal risk, injury, or failure according to modified Pediatric Risk Injury, Failure, Loss, End-Stage Renal Disease criteria. Univariate and multivariate matched analyses were conducted to identify risk factors contributing to nephrotoxicity.

Results: In the selected study group, renal dysfunction was seen in 131 of 373 (35%) treatment courses studied: 81 of 373 (22%) risk, 36 of 373 (9.7%) injury, and 14 of 373 (3.8%) failure. Most renal dysfunction occurred within 48 hours of the initiation of acyclovir. Renal function returned to the normal range but not to baseline in most cases during the follow-up period. Risk factors for renal dysfunction included acyclovir dose >15 mg/kg (OR 3.81, 95% CI 1.55-9.37) for risk; cumulative exposure greater than calculated cumulative exposure based on 500 mg/m(2)/dose (OR 6.00, 95% CI 1.95-18.46) for injury; and age >8 years (OR 21.5, 95% CI 2.2, >1000) and ceftriaxone coadministration (OR 19.3, 95% CI 1.8, >1000) for failure.

Conclusions: Nephrotoxicity associated with IV acyclovir is common and necessitates renal function monitoring. Risk factors include greater dose, older age, and concomitant ceftriaxone administration. Outside the neonatal period, renal dysfunction may be minimized by dosing IV acyclovir below thresholds associated with nephrotoxicity (ie, ≤ 500 mg/m(2)/dose or ≤ 15 mg/kg/dose), particularly in older patients.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / epidemiology*
  • Acyclovir / administration & dosage*
  • Adolescent
  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Encephalitis, Herpes Simplex / drug therapy
  • Encephalitis, Varicella Zoster / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Acyclovir