ACTH therapy in infantile spasms: side effects.
162 children with infantile spasms were treated with ACTH at the Children's Hospital, Helsinki, and at the Aurora Hospital, Helsinki, during 1960--76. In a large proportion (37%) of the children the treatment caused pronounced side effects, and the mortality was 4.9%. The most common complications were infections: septic infections, pneumonias, and urinary and gastrointestinal infections. Other side effects were arterial hypertension (11), osteoporosis (2), hypokalaemic alkalosis (2), and other marked electrolyte disturbances (10). In children necropsy showed fresh intracerebral haemorrhages. Four children developed oliguria and hyperkalaemia during and after withdrawal of ACTH. One of them had tubular necrosis confirmed by renal biopsy. Infections were significantly more common with large doses (120 units) of ACTH than with small ones (40 units). It is concluded that side effects, even severe ones, are more common during treatment than had been assumed. Careful watch is important before and after treatment. The benefit of very high dosages should also be reconsidered.