Intended for healthcare professionals


Kawasaki disease

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 09 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:322

Early recognition is vital to prevent cardiac complications

  1. Nigel Curtis, MRC clinician scientist (
  1. a Paediatric Infectious Diseases Unit, Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College School of Medicine at St Mary's, London W2 1PG

    Dr Tomisaku Kawasaki described the disease that bears his name nearly 30 years ago.1 Kawasaki disease is now the commonest cause of acquired heart disease in children in developed countries. Its cause remains unknown, and it presents doctors with many difficulties in diagnosis and management. Kawasaki disease is a systemic febrile vasculitis predominantly affecting children aged under 5 years. The incidence in Britain is 3.4 per 100 000 children aged under 5 years2—about a third of the incidence reported in the United States and a 30th of that in Japan.3 The most important complication, coronary arteritis leading to formation of aneurysms, occurs in 20-30% of untreated patients.3 Thrombosis within an aneurysm, myocardial infarction, and dysrhythmias may occur in the acute phase of the illness. The case fatality rate in Britain in 1990 was 3.7%,2 which compares unfavourably with the United States and Japan, where in some centres it is as low as 0.1%.2 Patients also suffer long term morbidity as a result of scarring of coronary arteries, intimal thickening, and accelerated atherosclerosis.3

    Diagnostic criteria for Kawasaki disease

    Presence of at least five of six conditions:

    • Fever for five days or more

    • Bilateral (non-purulent) conjunctivitis

    • Polymorphous rash

    • Changes in lips and mouth:

    Reddened, dry, or cracked lips

    Strawberry tongue …

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