Liver Disease Branch, Division of Intramural Research and the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS:
Fatigue is the most frequent and often debilitating symptom of chronic hepatitis C. It is unclear whether successful therapy of hepatitis C leads to its clinical improvement. In the Virahep-C study, patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 infection were treated with peginterferon alfa-2a and ribavirin for up to 48 weeks while undergoing assessment of viral kinetics and clinical symptoms.
Fatigue measurements were conducted, before, during and after therapy, as 'presence' (yes/no) and 'severity' (visual analogue scale: 0 to 100mm). The clinical, histologic and virologic features that correlated with the presence and degree of fatigue were assessed focusing upon changes associated with sustained virological response (SVR).
At baseline, 52% (n= 401) participants reported having fatigue, which was more common in women than men (59% vs. 48%, p=0.02) and slightly more severe (30 vs. 22mm, p=0.056). Fatigue was frequent and worse in cirrhotics versus those with lesser fibrosis (66% vs. 49%; 34 vs. 24mm). Fatigue did not correlate with other parameters. The proportion of patients and median fatigue scores increased on treatment (52% to 78%; 25 to 40mm, p<0.0001) with higher fatigue noted amongst those who ultimately achieved SVR (p<0.0001). On achieving SVR, there was a significant decrease in both frequency and severity of fatigue compared to their baseline (53% to 33%; 27 to 13mm, both p<0.0001).
Fatigue is common in patients with chronic hepatitis C but associated poorly with biochemical parameters. Sustained response is accompanied by substantial improvement of fatigue.