Cigarette smoking as a significant risk factor for digital vascular disease in patients with systemic sclerosis

Arthritis Rheum. 2002 Dec;46(12):3312-6. doi: 10.1002/art.10685.


Objective: Patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) are at high risk for digital vascular complications, including amputation and gangrene. Cigarette smoking is an important risk factor for vascular disease in the general population. We investigated the influence of cigarette smoking on digital ischemia in patients with SSc.

Methods: We studied 101 patients with SSc (87 women and 14 men, median age 53 years, median disease duration 13 years). Smoking history was defined in terms of current smoking status and total number of pack-years. Digital ischemic events were classified as debridement, hospital admission for intravenous (IV) administration of vasodilators, and digital amputation. The influence of smoking on digital ischemic events was examined using logistic regression, adjusting for age, sex, and disease duration. Results are expressed as the odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (95% CI).

Results: Of the 101 patients, 21 (21%) were current smokers, 37 (37%) were ex-smokers, and 43 (43%) had never smoked. After adjusting for age, sex, and disease duration, current smokers were significantly more likely than never-smokers to have had debridement (OR 4.5, 95% CI 1.1-18.3) or admission for IV vasodilators (OR 3.8, 95% CI 1.1-12.9). Patients smoking at higher intensity were more likely to require admission for IV vasodilators.

Conclusion: Among patients with SSc, current smokers are 3-4 times more likely than never-smokers to incur digital vascular complications. Resources should be directed to supporting smoking cessation in patients with SSc.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fingers / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Ischemia / etiology
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Toes / blood supply*
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Vasodilator Agents / therapeutic use


  • Vasodilator Agents