Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease involves the skin, mucous membranes and lymph nodes, causes fever, and most often affects kids under age 5, and is more common among children of Japanese and Korean descent.. Doctors do not know the exact source of Kawasaki disease, but it is probably associated with a combination of genetic predispostion, contact with certain viruses and bacteria, and other environment factors including chemicals. If Kawasaki disease diagnosis is made early, kids can fully recover within a few days. Untreated, it can lead to serious complications that can affect the heart.

Children with the disease who don’t receive treatment in the early stages can develop vasculitis — inflammation of the blood vessels. This condition can be particularly dangerous because it can affect the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart.

Inflammation also can affect the heart muscle, lining, valves and the outer membrane around the heart. Other complications include arrhythmias (changes in the normal heart rhythm) or abnormal functioning of some heart valves.

The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, have the experience and skill to make the diagnosis of Kawasaki disease and treat the coronary vasculitis and other manifestations of Kawasaki disease.

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has ranked Norton Children’s Heart Institute’s pediatric heart care among the best in the region. Norton Children’s has a network of outreach diagnostic and treatment services conveniently located throughout Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Norton Children’s Heart Institute providers can manage the complications of Kawasaki disease following diagnosis. Most children will feel better within two days of starting treatment. Heart issues usually won’t develop if treatment begins within 10 days of the start of symptoms.

Kawasaki disease is initially treated with intravenous gamma globulin (purified antibodies from pooled donor blood). Again, most kids recover completely, but some can develop coronary artery abnormalities after having Kawasaki disease and they will require  further testing and treatments directed by a specialist at Norton children’s Heart Institute.

Kawasaki Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease usually appear in phases. The first phase, which can last for up to two weeks, usually involves a fever that lasts for at least five days.

Other symptoms include:

  • Severe redness in the eyes
  • A rash on the stomach, chest and genitals
  • Red, dry, cracked lips
  • Swollen tongue with a white coating and big red bumps (called “strawberry tongue”)
  • Sore, irritated throat
  • Swelling and a purple-red color in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • Swollen lymph nodes

During the second phase, which usually begins within two weeks of the fever’s start, skin on the hands and feet may begin to peel in large pieces. Treatment may not prevent this symptom. A child also may have joint pain, diarrheavomiting or abdominal pain.

If your child shows these symptoms, call your doctor.

Kawasaki disease can look similar to other common childhood viral and bacterial illnesses. No single test can detect Kawasaki disease, so doctors usually diagnose it by checking the symptoms and ruling out other conditions.

Kawasaki Disease Treatment

Treatment should start as soon as possible, ideally within 10 days of when the fever started. Usually, treatment involves intravenous doses of gamma globulin (purified antibodies from pooled donor blood) that helps the body fight infection.

Some kids with Kawasaki disease are put on a low dose of aspirin for a long time to prevent heart problems.

It’s very important for children taking aspirin routinely to get an annual flu shot to help prevent viral illnesses. Children who take aspirin during a viral illness are at risk for getting Reye syndrome, a rare but serious illness.

Why Norton Children’s Heart Institute?

Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, is a comprehensive pediatric heart surgery, heart failure and heart transplant program serving Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond.

The goal of the full-service Norton Children’s Heart Institute is to provide care for the child and the whole family. Our specialists are prepared to repair even the most complex congenital and acquired heart conditions.

Our heart team includes:

  • Pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons
  • Pediatric transplant surgeons
  • Pediatric cardiologists
    • Fetal cardiologists
    • Adult congenital heart cardiologists
    • Heart failure/heart transplant cardiologists
    • Pediatric electrophysiologists
    • Pediatric cardiac catheterization cardiologists
  • Pediatric cardiovascular anesthesiologists
  • Pediatric intensive care physicians
  • Cardiac critical care nurses
  • Critical care pharmacists
  • Family support team
  • Child life specialists
  • Rehabilitation specialists
  • Social workers
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Norton Children’s Heart Institute

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