Background: Skin ulcers are common vascular complications of systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Objective: The aim of the study was to identify clinical, biologic, and imaging parameters that constitute risk factors for the occurrence and persistence of skin ulcers.
Methods: One hundred thirty Italian SSc patients were examined at entry and after 20 months of follow-up.
Results: The diffuse SSc phenotype with avascular areas on capillaroscopy, thrombophilia, and systemic inflammation as defined by interleukin 6 plasma levels, represented the major risk factors for ulcer development. Infection was associated with a risk of poor or no healing, and cardiopulmonary involvement was a major comorbid factor in patients with ulcers. The presence of infection and avascular areas represented the main determinants for ulcer healing.
Limitations: Our data should be confirmed with a longer follow-up period since skin ulcers represent a frequent vascular complication in scleroderma patients.
Conclusion: Aggressive therapies aiming at improving angiogenesis and controlling infection and the course of the disease appear to be crucial to obtain ulcer healing.