Raynaud's phenomenon and digital ischemia: a practical approach to risk stratification, diagnosis and management

Int J Clin Rheumtol. 2010;5(3):355-370. doi: 10.2217/ijr.10.17.


Digital ischemia is a painful and often disfiguring event. Such an ischemic event often leads to tissue loss and can significantly affect the patient's quality of life. Digital ischemia can be secondary to a vasculopathy, vasculitis, embolic disease, trauma, or extrinsic vascular compression. It is an especially serious complication in patients with scleroderma. Risk stratification of patients with scleroderma at risk for digital ischemia is now possible with clinical assessment and autoantibody profiles. Because there are a variety of conditions that lead to digital ischemia, it is important to understand the pathophysiology underlying each ischemic presentation in order to target therapy appropriately. Significant progress has been made in the last two decades in defining the pathophysiological processes leading to digital ischemia in rheumatic diseases. In this article we review the risk stratification, diagnosis, and management of patients with digital ischemia and provide a practical approach to therapy, particularly in scleroderma.

Keywords: Raynaud’s phenomenon; digital ischemia; digital ulcers; scleroderma.