Delayed diagnosis of Kawasaki syndrome: an analysis of the problem

Marsha S Anderson, James K Todd, Mary P Glodé
Pediatrics 2005, 115 (4): e428-33

OBJECTIVE: Most pediatric providers in Colorado are familiar with Kawasaki syndrome (KS). However, in a recent outbreak, 30% of cases were diagnosed after illness day 10. We hypothesized that these children saw providers who were not familiar with KS, were given antibiotics for other diagnoses that delayed identification, had access-to-care issues, or presented atypically.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review of 106 consecutive KS cases seen at the Children's Hospital in Denver during 1994-2000 was conducted.

RESULTS: Twenty-five of 106 children (23.6%) were diagnosed after day 10 of illness (delayed-diagnosis group [DDG]), and these 25 cases were compared with 81 cases diagnosed on or before day 10 (early-diagnosis group [EDG]). There were no differences between patients in the DDG and EDG in age, gender, number of visits, specialty of the primary care physician, time to the first medical visit, number of antibiotics received, coronary artery abnormalities, white blood cell count, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate. Patients in the DDG had significantly more days of fever, rash, red eyes, and oral changes. A platelet count of >450000/mm3 occurred more often in the DDG (56%) than the EDG (30%). After additional analysis, patients in the EDG had close clustering of symptom onset in the first few days of illness, but patients in the DDG had onset of symptoms scattered over 9 days. Patients in the DDG were 2.8 times more likely to have coronary artery aneurysms than patients in the EDG (DDG: 24%; EDG: 8.6%).

CONCLUSIONS: Diagnosis after the 10th day of illness was not linked to type of medical provider, number of antibiotics received, or number of physician visits. Patients in the DDG exhibited the typical features of KS, but the onset of their symptoms was dispersed over time as opposed to the close clustering of symptoms in the EDG. Because coronary artery aneurysms occurred significantly more often in the patients in the DDG, more education is needed to teach health care providers to have a high index of suspicion for KS in young children presenting with fever/rash illnesses.

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