January 1995

Theophylline Effects on Cognition, Behavior, and Learning

Author Affiliations

From Children's Rehabilitation Hospital, Philadelphia, Pa.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(1):90-93. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170130092021

Objective:  To compare a group of hospitalized asthmatic children taking theophylline with a similar group of hospitalized nonasthmatic children on standardized measures of distractibility, attention, hyperactivity, and academic achievement.

Design:  Standardized psychological tests were used to measure cognition, attention, and learning, and results for the two groups were compared.

Setting:  All subjects were hospitalized in an intermediate care facility.

Patients:  Up to 63 asthmatic children taking theophylline were compared with a group of 46 nonasthmatic children matched for age, sex, socioeconomic status, and full-scale IQ. Children with head injuries, mental retardation, or known learning disabilities were not included.

Interventions:  All asthmatic children and none of the nonasthmatic children maintained therapeutic levels of theophylline during the evaluation period.

Main Outcome Measures:  Independent t tests were used to examine differences between groups on psychological tests of cognition, attention, and learning.

Results:  No significant differences were found between groups on any variables at the 95% level of confidence.

Conclusions:  While idiosyncratic side effects of theophylline are possible, most children are not more hyperactive, distractible, short of memory, different in academic achievement, or more impulsive than other children with chronic illness.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:90-93)