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Kawasaki disease is a serious pediatric illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels and can damage the coronary arteries of the heart. While its symptoms can mimic many infectious and non-infectious diseases, such as scarlet fever, toxic shock syndrome and measles, it was first recognized as a separate illness in 1967 by Dr. Tomisaku Kawasaki, a Japanese pediatrician.
This illness is now the most common cause of acquired heart disease in children in developed nations, and it is diagnosed in approximately 3,500-5,000 children in the United States each year. Early detection and diagnosis are critical, as one in four children with this illness develop heart complications without proper treatment.
The Lurie Children's Difference
Since 1979, the Division of Infectious Diseases has cared for more than 1,600 children with Kawasaki disease. The hospital’s Center for Kawasaki Disease was established in 1998 and has become well-known nationally and internationally as one of the most active centers in the U.S. for clinical, educational and research programs related to Kawasaki disease. Our physician-scientists are continuing their research efforts to find the cause of this illness, to improve diagnosis and treatment and to identify genetic factors that determine who is susceptible to Kawasaki disease.
Until the mid 1980s, no specific treatment was available for Kawasaki disease. Studies at our hospital and several other children’s hospitals proved that a medicine called intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), when given together with high doses of aspirin early in the illness, significantly reduces inflammation and the risk of coronary artery damage in most children.
What to Expect
Your child will be evaluated by one of our experts with extensive experience in Kawasaki Disease and management. After a thorough medical history and physical exam, our experts may request blood and urine tests that, when combined, improve the diagnosis of Kawasaki Diseasea and make other diseases less likely. The experts may request an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart, to look at the heart blood vessels for swelling. Once diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease, the therapy requires that your child be hospitalized for the IVIG treatment administered through an IV. Like other blood products, IVIG undergoes rigorous tests for HIV, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases. There have been no known cases of a child treated for Kawasaki disease developing an infection from the use of IVIG, but a small number may experience side effects such as fever or chills during the treatment. In some cases where the risk for heart artery involvement is high, your expert team may recommend additional treatments and time in the hospital to watch for the expected improvement. Your expert team will see you and your child in the hospital daily to give you updates and answer questions.
In addition to in-person visits, we now offer telemedicine visits via video or phone. Some appointments will still require you to be seen in-person, but your physician and care team will let you know if a telemedicine appointment is available.
To help prepare families for their care with Lurie Children's Heart Center, we have compiled a list of resources that may be of use throughout treatment — whether it's getting ready for an inpatient stay or outpatient visit, or learning more about the support services available to patients and families.
Your support is vital in helping us continue to make a difference in the lives of patients and families. Lurie Children’s relies on philanthropic funding to enhance its programs, services and research for children. To learn more, please e-mail the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 312.227.7500.