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

Pediatr Infect Dis J. 1997 Oct;16(10):984-90. doi: 10.1097/00006454-199710000-00016.


Background: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusion: 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.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antiviral Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Hepatitis B, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Hepatitis C, Chronic / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / adverse effects*
  • Interferon-alpha / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Quality of Life
  • Sickness Impact Profile


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Interferon-alpha