Kawasaki disease can lead to heart problems later in life, study finds

Survivors of Kawasaki disease, a condition that causes blood vessel inflammation in young children, have a higher risk of developing heart disease for more than 10 years after diagnosis, according to research presented at the American College of Rheumatology’s annual Convergence meeting. 

Out of 4,597 KD survivors hospitalized in Ontario between 1995 and 2018, about 16 percent (746) suffered cardiovascular events, researchers found. About 2 percent (79) experienced major adverse cardiac events such as stroke or heart attack, and nine died during a median 11 year follow-up period. The most commonly reported cardiac events were ischemic heart disease, arrhythmias, hypertension and peripheral vascular disease. Instances of these heart complications were higher among KD survivors compared to children without the disease. 

The risk of suffering cardiovascular events was highest in the first year after hospital discharge, although the overall death risk during the follow-up period was lower compared to those who did not have KD. 

“This suggests that KD survivors should be screened at regular intervals for cardiovascular diseases and associated risk factors,” Cal Robinson, MD, study author and pediatric resident at The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto, said in a news release. “Cardiovascular risk reduction strategies should be implemented for all KD survivors, including healthy active lifestyle counseling and early intervention when cardiovascular risk factors are identified.” 

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