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Kawasaki Disease and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children: An Overview and Comparison

of Dr. John B. Darby, Dr.ssa Jennifer M. Jackson • September 2022
Kawasaki disease (KD) and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) are inflammatory conditions that present diagnostic and therapeutic challenges to the physician. Although many of their features overlap, they are two distinct conditions. KD is a febrile illness most commonly affecting children younger than five years. It manifests with prolonged fever and at least four of the following features: bilateral bulbar conjunctivitis, mucositis, diffuse maculopapular rash, extremity changes, and cervical lymphadenopathy of 1.5 cm or more in diameter. Patients with MIS-C may have many of the same manifestations but tend to have higher rates of gastrointestinal and neurocognitive symptoms and signs of shock on presentation. Both conditions are associated with cardiac sequelae, including coronary artery aneurysms, although children with MIS-C are at high risk of developing ventricular dysfunction and depressed cardiac output. Lymphocytopenia, thrombocytopenia, elevated troponin, and elevated B-type natriuretic peptide are key laboratory findings of MIS-C that can help distinguish it from KD. The use of intravenous immune globulin is well established in KD and also appears to have a role in the treatment of MIS-C. Aspirin has been used in KD for an anti-inflammatory effect, and low-dose aspirin is recommended for MIS-C to reduce the risk of thrombosis. In addition to supportive care, patients with MIS-C may benefit from immunomodulatory medications, although data on this topic are evolving.

(Am Fam Physician. 2021; 104(3): 244-252. Copyright © 2021 American Academy of Family Physicians.)

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