OBJECTIVES To identify early predictors of intractability in childhood and adolescence epilepsy. MATERIALS AND METHODS We carried out a community-based case-control study using the incidence cohort of epileptic patients living in the district of Copparo, in the province of Ferrara, Italy. The comparative study was performed in 31 cases and 95 controls. Cases were patients who averaged at least 1 unprovoked seizure per month during an observational period of at least 2 years. Controls were subjects having achieved remission for at least 5 years regardless of current therapy. RESULTS Onset at age <1 year, remote symptomatic etiology and high frequency of seizures before therapy were found to be independent early predictors of intractability. CONCLUSION Our study suggested that the risk of developing intractable epilepsy may, to some extent, be predicted at the time of initial diagnosis in children with early-onset epilepsy of remote symptomatic etiology, especially if seizure propensity is initially high.