Objective: To assess the prevalence of primary cardiac complications in a large population of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc), using recently developed echocardiographic techniques.
Methods: We prospectively studied 100 consecutive patients (mean +/- SD age 54 +/- 14 years; 86 women) presenting with SSc without pulmonary arterial hypertension or clinical manifestations of heart failure. All patients underwent standard echocardiography, along with measurements of longitudinal velocities by tissue Doppler imaging (TDI) to assess left ventricular (LV) and right ventricular (RV) contractility and LV diastolic function. Results were compared with those in 26 age- and sex-matched healthy controls.
Results: Patients with SSc had a wider mean left atrial diameter and impaired relaxation compared with the controls. A trend was observed toward a smaller LV ejection fraction (EF) in the patients (mean +/- SD 64.9 +/- 0.6%) than in the controls (67.2 +/- 0.7%), as well as higher pulmonary artery pressure (mean +/- SD 33.3 +/- 0.6 mm Hg versus 30.8 +/- 1.0 mm Hg). LVEF was <55% in 7 patients versus none of the controls. Peak systolic mitral annular velocity as measured by TDI was <7.5 cm/second in 14 patients versus none of the controls (P = 0.040). Mitral annulus early diastolic velocity was <10 cm/second in 30 patients versus 2 of the controls (P = 0.022). Fifteen patients and none of the controls had reduced peak systolic tricuspid annular velocity (P = 0.039). The TDI results correlated with each other, but not with lung abnormalities or other disease characteristics.
Conclusion: Depression of LV and RV systolic and LV diastolic function is common in patients with SSc and is due to primary myocardial involvement. Considering the major contributions of TDI, the addition of this simple technique to standard measurements may improve the detection of heart involvement in patients with SSc.