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Kidney stones linked to heart disease risk in children

Scientists have for the first time identified a link between kidney stones in children and thickened or hardened arteries – precursors to a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases.

Kidney stones in kids are increasingly common, and until recently they were believed to be an isolated medical problem.

Research has established a connection between kidney stones and atherosclerosis in adults, but the new study is the first to identify a significant association between the two health concerns in children.

“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,” said lead author Kirsten Kusumi, a fellow at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in US.

“We wanted to learn whether and why children who have kidney stones may already be showing damage to their arteries,” Kusumi said.

The study used ultrasound examination to evaluate and compare the thickness of key arteries for 15 children with kidney stones and 15 children without them.

None of the participants were diagnosed with conditions known to cause atherosclerosis, so that any damage to the arteries could be associated with children’s kidney stones.

The researchers detected a significant increase in the thickness of the right carotid artery and average artery thickness – potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease – in children with a recent kidney stone.

“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,” said Kusumi.

The study shows the first evidence of early vascular disease in children with kidney stones who are free of accompanying risk factors in adults, and it points to these children having increased cardiovascular risk that has not been previously recognised.

“Now that we have a clear indication that the association between kidney stones and arterial thickening or hardening begins in childhood, we can take steps as clinicians to treat these vascular symptoms or implement preventive measures, such as exercise and diet programmes,” Kusumi said.

The researchers have not yet defined the exact mechanism that connects kidney stones to vascular hardening, but they hypothesise that inflammation may play an important role.

The team screened the urine of participants for different biomarkers. In children with arterial abnormalities, key inflammatory markers appeared at higher levels.

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics.