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Keywords:

  • chronic hepatitis C;
  • interferon;
  • partial splenic embolization;
  • ribavirin;
  • thrombocytopenia

Aim:  A low platelet count leads to dose reduction of interferon (IFN) and is associated with failure to achieve a sustained virological response (SVR) in chronic hepatitis C patients. However, partial splenic embolization (PSE) is effective for treating thrombocytopenia resulting from hypersplenism.

Methods:  We compared the clinical features of 10 patients receiving PSE prior to the combination therapy of IFN and ribavirin (RBV) (PSE group) with those of 10 non-receiving PSE patients (non-PSE group).

Results:  In all 10 patients, PSE was successfully performed without serious adverse events. After PSE, leukocyte, neutrophil, and platelet counts significantly increased. The period from PSE to the initiation of the combination therapy was 15 (7–21) days. In the PSE group, two of six patients (33%) infected with genotype 1, and all four patients infected with genotype 2, achieved SVR. In the non-PSE group, only three patients infected with genotype 2 achieved SVR. Two patients in the PSE group and one in the non-PSE group discontinued the combination therapy. Three patients of the PSE group and five of the non-PSE group reduced the dose of pegylated IFN-α-2b because of thrombocytopenia. In the PSE group, platelet counts during the combination therapy fell to baseline levels; however, they did not fall to lower levels than baseline levels. In the non-PSE group, platelet counts 1 month after the initiation of the therapy were lower than baseline levels.

Conclusion:  The increase of platelet counts after PSE may allow the safe use of IFN and RBV and improve the SVR rate in chronic hepatitis C patients with thrombocytopenia.