Treating children with Kawasaki disease and coronary enlargement

IVIG plus steroids or infliximab, or IVIG alone?


Clinical question

Does use of corticosteroids or infliximab in addition to intravenous immunoglobulin improve cardiac outcomes in children with Kawasaki disease and enlarged coronary arteries?

Dr. Samuel C. Stubblefield, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Del.

Dr. Samuel C. Stubblefield


Kawasaki disease is a medium-vessel vasculitis primarily of young children. While the underlying cause remains unknown, treatment with intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) substantially lowers the risk of coronary artery aneurysms (CAA), the most serious sequelae of Kawasaki disease. Recent studies have suggested that – in cases of high-risk or treatment-resistant Kawasaki disease – using an immunomodulator, such as a corticosteroid or a TNF-alpha blocker, may improve outcomes, though these studies involved relatively small and homogeneous patient populations. It is unknown if these medications could prevent progression of CAA.

Study design

Retrospective multicenter study.


Two freestanding children’s hospitals and one mother-child hospital.


The study identified 121 children diagnosed with Kawasaki disease with CAA (z score 2.5-10) from 2008 through 2017 treated at the three study hospitals. Children with giant CAA at the time of diagnosis (z score greater than 10) or significant preexisting congenital heart disease were excluded.

All study hospitals had protocols for treatment of Kawasaki disease: Center 1 used IVIG and corticosteroids, Center 2 used IVIG and infliximab, and Center 3 used IVIG alone. Patients at all centers also received aspirin. Center 1 used methylprednisolone IV initially, changing to oral prednisolone after clinical improvement. The researchers reviewed the charts of each patient and classified them as having complete or incomplete Kawasaki disease. They assigned z scores for CAA size based on both initial and follow-up echocardiograms. The primary outcome was change in z score of CAA over the first year.

The population of patients treated at each center was significantly different. Center 1 reported older patients (median age 2.6 vs. 2.0 and 1.1), as well as a higher rate of male patients (83% vs. 77% and 58%). However, there was no difference in baseline z scores between centers. Patients who initially received IVIG and corticosteroids were less likely to require additional therapy because of persistent fever versus those receiving IVIG only, or IVIG and infliximab (0% vs. 21% vs. 14%, P = .03).

Patients receiving IVIG and corticosteroids, or IVIG and infliximab, were less likely to have progression of CAA size, with 23% and 24% having an increase in z score of more than 1 versus 58% of those who received IVIG alone. No group had significant differences in maximum z score, the rate of giant aneurysms, or the rate of regression of CAA.

Bottom line

Using IVIG + corticosteroids or IVIG + infliximab versus IVIG alone for children with Kawasaki disease with coronary artery aneurysms decreases the rate of aneurysm enlargement.


Dionne A et al. Treatment intensification in patients with Kawasaki disease and coronary aneurysm at diagnosis. Pediatrics. May 2019:e20183341. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-3341.

Dr. Stubblefield is a pediatric hospitalist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

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