Kidney stones may put kids at heart disease risk

New York: Kidney stones in children are not an isolated medical problem, claim researchers, suggesting that there is a clear link between kidney stones in children and thickened or hardened arteries — precursors to a wide variety of cardiovascular diseases.

Previous research has established a connection between kidney stones and atherosclerosis in adults but this 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,” explained Kirsten Kusumi, nephrology fellow at Ohio-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The 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 collaborators 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.

“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,” noted Dr Kusumi.

“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 programmes,” Dr Kusumi advised.

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 the urine of children with arterial abnormalities, key inflammatory markers appeared at higher levels.

“It could be that different types of kidney stones have different causes and even different risk factors,” added Andrew Schwaderer, research director of Nephrology at Nationwide Children’s.

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 authors concluded in a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.