Previous research has established a connection between kidney stones and atherosclerosis in adults, precursors to a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases. Now, a new study has revealed that kidney stones in children are not an isolated medical problem. The findings of the study suggest that there is a clear link between kidney stones in children and thickened or hardened arteries.
Dr. Kirsten Kusumi, nephrology fellow at Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital, said, "If the processes of kidney stone formation and hardening of the arteries are somehow linked in adults, it makes sense that a similar link may exist in children, despite the fact that people don't associate heart and vascular diseases with kids."
For the study, the research team used ultrasound exams to evaluate and compare the thickness of key arteries for 15 children with kidney stones and 15 children without them. Dr. Kusumi and her colleagues detected a significant increase in the thickness of the right carotid artery and average artery thickness, potential risk factors for cardiovascular complications or disease, in children with a recent kidney stone.
Dr. Kusumi said, "Our findings suggest that there is something going on in the body related to kidney stone formation that also impacts the health of children's arteries. Now that we have a clear indication, we can take steps as clinicians to treat these vascular symptoms or implement preventive measures, such as exercise and diet programs."
The scientists have not yet defined the exact mechanism that connects kidney stones to vascular hardening, but they hypothesize that inflammation may play an important role.
The researchers also screened the urine of participants for different biomarkers. They found that key inflammatory markers appeared at higher levels in the urine of children with arterial abnormalities. Andrew Schwaderer, research director of Nephrology at Nationwide Children's, said, "It could be that different types of kidney stones have different causes and even different risk factors."
The authors concluded, "If kidney stones are putting children at risk for serious cardiovascular problems as adults, we need to intervene and make a difference in their future health."
The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics.