Kawasaki disease, also known as lymph node syndrome, mucocutaneous node disease, infantile polyarteritis and Kawasaki syndrome, is a poorly understood self-limited vasculitis that affects many organs, including the skin and mucous membranes, lymph nodes, blood vessel walls, and the heart. It does not seem to be contagious. It was first described in 1967 by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki in Japan.
Incidence and risk factors
By far, the highest incidence of Kawasaki disease occurs in Japan
(175 per 100,000), though its incidence in the United States
is increasing. Kawasaki disease is predominantly a disease of young children, with 80% of patients younger than 5 years of age.
The disease affects boys more than girls. Approximately 2000 cases are identified in the United States each year.
The causative agent of Kawasaki disease is still unknown. However, current etiological theories
center primarily on immunological
causes for the disease. Much research is being performed to discover a definitive toxin
substance, possibly a superantigen
, that is the specific cause of the disease.
An unknown virus may play a role as an inciting factor as well.
An association with ITPKC has been identified. The HLA-B51 serotype has been found to be associated with in endemic (versus epidemic) mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome.
complications are, by far, the most important aspect of the disease. Kawasaki disease can cause vasculitic changes (inflammation of blood vessels) in the coronary arteries
and subsequent coronary artery aneurysms
. These aneurysms can lead to myocardial infarction
) even in young children. Overall, about 10–18% of children with Kawasaki disease develop coronary artery aneurysms Kawasaki syndrome and risk factors for coronary artery abnormalities: United States, 1994-2003. with much higher prevalence among patients who are not treated early in the course of illness. Kawasaki disease and rheumatic fever
are most common causes of acquired heart disease among children in the United States.
Kawasaki disease often begins with a high and persistent fever
that is not very responsive to normal doses of paracetamol
(acetaminophen) or ibuprofen
. The fever may persist steadily for up to two weeks and is normally accompanied by irritability. Affected children develop red eyes, red mucous membranes
in the mouth, red cracked lips, a "strawberry tongue
", iritis, keratic precipitates (detectable by an ophthalmologist but usually too small to be seen by the unaided eye), and swollen lymph nodes
. Skin rashes
occur early in the disease, and peeling of the skin in the genital area
, hands, and feet (especially around the nails and on the palms and soles) may occur in later phases. Some of these symptoms may come and go during the course of the illness. If left untreated, the symptoms will eventually relent, but coronary artery aneurysms will not improve, resulting in a significant risk of death or disability due to myocardial infarction
(heart attack). If treated in a timely fashion, this risk can be mostly avoided and the course of illness cut short.
- High-grade fever (greater than 39 °C or 102 °F; often as high as 40 °C or 104 °F) that normally lasts for more than a week if left untreated.
- Red eyes (conjunctivitis) without pus or drainage, also known as "conjunctival injection"
- Bright red, chapped, or cracked lips
- Red mucous membranes in the mouth
- Strawberry tongue, white coating on the tongue or prominent red bumps (Papillae) on the back of the tongue
- Red palms of the hands and the soles of the feet
- Swollen hands and feet
- Rash which may take many forms, but not vesicular (blister-like), on the trunk
- Swollen lymph nodes (frequently only one lymph node is swollen), particularly in the neck area
- Joint pain (arthralgia) and swelling, frequently symmetrical
- Tachycardia (rapid heart beat)
- Peeling (desquamation) palms and soles (later in the illness); peeling may begin around the nails
- Beau's lines(transverse grooves on nails)
Signs and tests
A physical examination will demonstrate many of the features listed above.
Other tests (may or may not be performed)
Kawasaki disease can only be diagnosed clinically (by medical signs
), as there exists no specific laboratory test that can tell if someone has it. It is normally difficult to establish the diagnosis, especially early in the course of illness, and frequently children are not diagnosed until they have seen their doctor several times, or visited a number of different health care providers. Many other serious illnesses can cause similar symptoms, and must be considered in the differential diagnosis
, including scarlet fever
, toxic shock
syndrome, and juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Classically, five days of fever plus four of five diagnostic criteria must be met in order to establish the diagnosis. The criteria are: (1) erythema of the lips or oral cavity or cracking of the lips; (2) rash on the trunk; (3) swelling or erythema of the hands or feet; (4) red eyes (conjunctival injection) (5) swollen lymph node in the neck of at least 15 millimeters.
Many children, especially infants, eventually diagnosed with Kawasaki disease do not exhibit all of the above criteria. In fact, many experts now recommend treating for Kawasaki disease even if only three days of fever have passed and at least three diagnostic criteria are present, especially if other tests reveal abnormalities consistent with Kawasaki disease. In addition, the diagnosis can be made purely by the detection of coronary artery aneurysms in the proper clinical setting.
Children with Kawasaki disease should be hospitalized and cared for by a physician who has experience with this disease. When in an academic medical center, care is often shared between pediatric cardiology
and pediatric infectious disease
specialists, although no infectious agent
has been demonstrated. It is imperative that treatment be started as soon as the diagnosis is made to prevent damage to the coronary arteries
Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is the standard treatment for Kawasaki disease and is administered in high doses with marked improvement usually noted within 24 hours. If the fever does not respond, an additional dose may have to be considered. IVIG by itself is most useful within the first 7 days of onset of fever, in terms of preventing coronary artery aneurysm.
Salicylate therapy, particularly aspirin, remains an important part of the treatment (though questioned by some) but salicylates alone are not as effective as Intravenous immunoglobulin. Aspirin therapy is started at high doses until the fever subsides, and then is continued at a low dose when the patient returns home, usually for 2 months to prevent blood clots from forming. Except for Kawasaki disease and a few other indications, aspirin is otherwise normally not recommended for children due to its association with Reye's syndrome.
Corticosteroids have also been used, especially when other treatments fail or symptoms recur, but in a randomized controlled trial, the addition of corticosteroid to immune globulin and aspirin did not improve outcome.
There are also treatments for iritis and other eye symptoms.
With early treatment, rapid recovery from the acute symptoms can be expected and the risk of coronary artery aneurysms greatly reduced. Untreated, the acute symptoms of Kawasaki disease are self-limited (i.e.
the patient will recover eventually), but the risk of coronary artery involvement is much greater. Overall, about 2% of patients die from complications of coronary vasculitis. Patients who have had Kawasaki disease should have an echocardiogram
initially every few weeks, and then every 1–2 years to screen for progression of cardiac involvement.
It is also not uncommon that a relapse of symptoms may occur soon after initial treatment with IVIG. This usually requires re-hospitalization and retreatment. Treatment with IVIG can cause allergic and non-allergic acute reactions, aseptic meningitis, fluid overload and, rarely, other serious reactions. Aspirin may increase the risk of bleeding from other causes and may be associated with Reye's syndrome. Overall, life-threatening complications resulting from therapy for Kawasaki disease are exceedingly rare, especially compared with the risk of non-treatment.