Objective: To describe, by using video nailfold capillaroscopy (NFC), microvascular abnormalities in children with rheumatic diseases and to evaluate the capillary changes over a follow up period.
Methods: 118 children suffering from rheumatic diseases: 55 juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), 7 mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD), 6 primary Raynaud's phenomenon (PRP), 34 systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), 8 juvenile systemic sclerosis (JSSc) and 8 juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) were included in the study. Patients with major capillaries abnormalities or scleroderma pattern were followed up for at least 12 months. 70 age- and sex-matched healthy controls (HC) were also examined.
Results: In HC there was a significant correlation between age and capillary length (p = 0.001). JIA patients showed capillary number, size, shape and arrangement similar to HC. Minor abnormalities were frequently observed. The percentage of major abnormalities were significantly increased compared to HC in MCTD (p = 0.008), SLE (p = 0.0002) and JDM patients (p < 0.0001). 5/8 of JSSc had a scleroderma pattern from the onset of the disease. The serial observations in connective tissue diseases also showed that the evolution of capillaroscopic pattern was not unidirectional. In fact, in some nailfolds there was an increase in capillary loss and in avascular areas, whereas sometimes it remained stable on repeated examination.
Conclusion: NFC can be used as a simple, inexpensive, non-invasive method to evaluate the microvascular abnormalities in childhood rheumatic conditions, and it may be useful in early recognition and monitoring scleroderma spectrum disorders.