From Anaheim, Calif., at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2001.
Using an electron-beam scanner, researchers have detected calcium deposits in the coronary arteries of children who previously had Kawasaki disease, an inflammatory ailment that when active can cause an aneurysm, or bulging blood vessel. The finding suggests that calcium underlies the ongoing risk of other vascular problems by people who had had the disease.
The scientists identified 18 children who had recovered from Kawasaki disease at least 1 year earlier. Nine had had an aneurysm in a coronary artery. Four of the aneurysms had disappeared, and five remained. The other nine Kawasaki patients hadn’t had an aneurysm.
The scan showed that four of the five patients with lingering aneurysms had calcium deposits at the site of the bulge, although they had no other sign of heart disease. One patient subsequently died of a heart attack. None of the other 14 patients had calcium deposits in arteries.
While the mechanism of Kawasaki disease’s attack on blood vessels is unknown, the injury it causes induces cells lining the vessels to take up calcium, says physician Gul H. Dadlani of the University of Rochester in New York. That calcium hardens in the aneurysm sites and places an individual at increased risk of a future heart attack, he says.
This finding is intriguing, but a more comprehensive study “is needed to be determine whether this is a good screening tool for following these patients through adulthood,” Dadlani says.