Primary cardiac involvement, which develops as a direct consequence of systemic sclerosis (SSc), may manifest as myocardial damage, fibrosis of the conduction system, pericardial and, less frequently, as valvular disease. In addition, cardiac complications in SSc may develop as a secondary phenomenon due to pulmonary arterial hypertension and kidney pathology. The prevalence of primary cardiac involvement in SSc is variable and difficult to determine because of the diversity of cardiac manifestations, the presence of subclinical periods, the type of diagnostic tools applied, and the diversity of patient populations. When clinically manifested, cardiac involvement is thought to be an important prognostic factor. Profound microvascular disease is a pathognomonic feature of SSc, as both vasospasm and structural alterations are present. Such alterations are thought to predict macrovascular atherosclerosis over time. There are contradictory reports regarding the prevalence of atherosclerosis in SSc. According to some authors, the prevalence of atherosclerosis of the large epicardial coronary arteries is similar to that of the general population, in contrast with other rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. However, the level of inflammation in SSc is inferior. Thus, the atherosclerotic process may not be as aggressive and not easily detectable in smaller studies. Echocardiography (especially tissue Doppler imaging), single-photon emission computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and cardiac computed tomography are sensitive techniques for earlier detection of both structural and functional scleroderma-related cardiac pathologies. Screening for subclinical cardiac involvement via modern, sensitive tools provides an opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment, which is of crucial importance for a positive outcome.
Keywords: Cardiac involvement; Systemic sclerosis.