Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease is named after Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki, a Japanese doctor who identified the disease in 1967. 

Kawasaki disease causes a high fever, enlarged lymph glands and swollen blood vessels. It can also cause damage to the heart. Kawasaki Disease affects more boys than girls and is usually found in children under five years old.

Children with Kawasaki disease are normally given an infusion of antibody (immunoglobulin) and high doses of aspirin.

When the temperature and acute illness have settled, the child will be sent home on a low dose of aspirin. This will continue for about six weeks or until the cardiologist is happy that the heart has not been damaged by the disease.

Most children recover from Kawasaki Disease without any long term effects or damage to their heart. 

Children who develop coronary artery aneurysms are treated with anticoagulant (anti-clotting) medicines such as aspirin or warfarin.

Some children need other medicines, such as Nifedipine or propranolol to reduce the work that the heart has to do. Children on these medicines may only be allowed to do a limited amount of exercise.

If a coronary artery aneurysm has healed and the artery has become too narrow, then it may need to be stretched again using a balloon catheter. If this will not work, then it might be necessary for a stent – a rigid framework – to be inserted by catheter to hold the artery open. Another option is open heart surgery but usually a balloon catheter will work and the other methods of treatment are much less common.

Most children will make a full recovery from Kawasaki Disease and will not need any special treatment. Children with heart complications should also make a good recovery once they have received treatment although they may need to be monitored for some time to check there have been no further complications.

More about Kawasaki Disease

Author(s): Children’s Heart Federation
Last updated: 2012-06-11