FORT WORTH, Texas — Most children who contract the coronavirus experience mild illness, but some of them go on to develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome, more commonly known as MIS-C.
It’s a rare but potentially dangerous condition if left untreated. More than 4,400 kids in the U.S. have come down with the syndrome as of July 25, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 37 who have died.
It typically affects school-aged children about four weeks after their initial coronavirus infection subsides. However, much remains unknown about the syndrome’s long-term health consequences.
A new study published Monday points in a positive direction.
Medical records of 68 children in the U.K. hospitalized with MIS-C following COVID-19 diagnoses show most of them recovered well with “no significant” medium- or long-term consequences. All the patients included in the study were admitted to intensive care units before May 2020 and were checked up on until April 2021.
None of the children died or needed respiratory support once back home from the hospital; just two were readmitted to an ICU within a year of being hospitalized, according to the study. Kids spent a median time of 10 days in the hospital.
Of the 19 children who developed aneurysms in their hearts — the swelling or weakening of an artery — 14 recovered within a year. Aneurysms can occur in the heart, brain, back of the knee, intestine or spleen and often don’t show symptoms until they rupture, which can result in internal bleeding, stroke or death.
Of the 10 kids who had abnormal arteries in their heart, nine of them returned to normal. And all of the 39 patients who experienced “impaired function” of the heart without an aneurysm recovered within a year.
“It’s a good sign that the sickest patients had such a high rate of full recovery,” study lead author Dr. Patrick Davies, a pediatric intensive care physician at Nottingham Children’s Hospital in England, told the Wall Street Journal. “There’s a certain amount of reassurance here.”
MIS-C was first identified among kids after bouts with COVID-19 in April 2020 by doctors in the U.S. and U.K., according to experts with Johns Hopkins Medicine.
The condition shares features with toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease, both of which trigger inflammation in the body. MIS-C has been found to affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes and gastrointestinal organs.
Doctors don’t yet know exactly what causes the syndrome, but symptoms typically appear between two to six weeks after coronavirus infection and can include fever, rashes, red eyes, diarrhea and vomiting.
MIS-C is treatable and most kids fully recover.