Objective: To determine the clinical and immunologic features of systemic sclerosis (SSc) in a large group of children and describe the clinical evolution of the disease and compare it with the adult form.
Methods: Data on 153 patients with juvenile SSc collected from 55 pediatric rheumatology centers in Europe, Asia, and South and North America were analyzed. Demographic, clinical, and immunologic characteristics of children with juvenile SSc at the onset, at diagnosis, and during the disease course were evaluated.
Results: Raynaud's phenomenon was the most frequent symptom, followed by skin induration in approximately 75% of patients. Musculoskeletal symptoms were present in one-third of patients, and the most frequently involved internal organs were respiratory and gastrointestinal, while involvement of renal, cerebral, and cardiovascular systems was extremely rare. Antinuclear antibodies were present in the sera of 81% of patients. Anti-topoisomerase I (Scl-70) and anticentromere antibodies were found to be positive in 34% and 7.1% of patients, respectively. Involvement of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems was more frequent and occurred earlier in patients who died than in those who survived. Compared with the adult form, juvenile SSc appears to be less severe, with the involvement of fewer internal organs, particularly at the time of diagnosis, and has a less characterized immunologic profile.
Conclusion: This study provides information on the largest collection of patients with juvenile SSc ever reported. Juvenile SSc appears to be less severe than in adults because children have less internal organ involvement, a less specific autoantibody profile, and a better long-term outcome.