Survival, causes of death, and risk factors associated with mortality in Spanish systemic sclerosis patients: results from a single university hospital

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2010 Feb;39(4):285-93. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2009.06.002. Epub 2009 Sep 25.


Objective: To analyze the causes of death, survival, and risk factors for mortality in a large series of Spanish systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients followed over the last 25 years in a tertiary care university hospital.

Methods: Demographic, clinical, and outcome data from all SSc patients followed in the rheumatology department were included in a database created in 1989. ANOVA, Kruskal-Wallis, or chi(2) tests were used to identify differences among groups; Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to estimate survival, and Cox proportional hazards regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with mortality.

Results: A total of 204 patients were included, of whom 182 (89%) were women. Mean age at diagnosis was 49 +/- 17 years, and mean follow-up was 8 years. Over 1635 patient-years, 36 of 44 deaths were attributable to SSc: 28 related to cardiorespiratory involvement, 4 to peripheral vascular disease, 3 to gastrointestinal, and 1 to renal involvement. The main SSc-unrelated causes of death were malignancy (3 cases) and infections (2 cases). Survival rates from disease onset were 85, 75, and 55% at 5, 10, and 20 years, respectively, with poorer survival in patients with renal disease and pulmonary hypertension (PH). Independent prognostic factors for mortality were older age at diagnosis, diffuse skin involvement, proteinuria, PH, and elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

Conclusions: Ten-year survival is over 70% in Spanish SSc patients. The main causes of death are lung and cardiac involvement, and to a lesser extent, peripheral vascular disease and coexisting malignancy. Diffuse subset, proteinuria, PH, elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate and older age at diagnosis are the main risk factors for mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cause of Death
  • Cyclophosphamide / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / mortality
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology
  • Kidney Diseases / mortality
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / mortality*
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Survival Rate
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Methylprednisolone