Objectives: To determine intra- and inter-observer reliability of widefield microscopy to measure nailfold capillary density in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Methods: Five SSc patients were examined with a STEMV-8 Zeiss biomicroscope with 50x magnification. The nailfold of the second, third, fourth and fifth fingers of both hands of each patient were photographed twice by each of two observers, once in the morning and again in the afternoon (total of 32 pictures). Two raters reviewed the photographs to produce capillary density readings. Intra- and inter-rater reliability of the readings were computed using intra-class correlations (ICC). Additional analyses were undertaken to determine the impact of other sources of variability in the data, namely patient, finger, technician and time.
Results: Intra-and inter-rater reliability were substantial (ICC 0.72-0.84) when raters were reading the same photographs or photographs taken at the same time of day. Agreement was only fair between morning and afternoon density readings (ICC 0.30-0.37). Patients, individual fingers and technician accounted for a large part of the variability in the data (combined variance component of 7.69 out of the total 12.23). The coefficient of variation of widefield microscopy was 24%.
Conclusions: Although intra- and inter-rater reliability of nailfold capillary density measurements using widefield microscopy are good, proper standardisation of the conditions under which capillaroscopy is done and better imaging of nailfold capillary abnormalities should be considered if nailfold capillary density is to be used as an outcome measure in multi-centre clinical trials in SSc.