Vascular complications in systemic sclerosis: a prospective cohort study

Clin Rheumatol. 2018 Sep;37(9):2429-2437. doi: 10.1007/s10067-018-4148-5. Epub 2018 May 26.


Two major complications in scleroderma patients that cause substantial morbidity and mortality are ischemic digital lesions (DL) and pulmonary hypertension (PH). The clinician's ability to predict which patients will develop these complications is imperfect. We conducted a prospective observational cohort study of 300 patients with scleroderma who were followed for at least a 5-year period. At baseline, patients lacked evidence of PH and were without a current DL. At each 6-month visit, the patient was examined for signs/symptoms of PH and/or a DL. The primary outcomes were (1) PH defined as a mean pulmonary artery pressure ≥ 25 mmHg by right heart catheterization and (2) ≥ 1 DL defined as new onset of severe vascular compromise. Thirty patients (10%) developed PH (11 group 1/PAH, 4 group II, 15 group III) and 69 developed DL. The average time from enrollment until diagnosis of PH was 3.2 ± 2 years. In multivariable analyses, patients who developed PH were more likely to have diffuse disease (HR 3.2, p = 0.004), a forced vital capacity (FVC)/diffusing capacity of the lungs for carbon monoxide (DLCO) ratio > 1.6 (HR 1.7, p = 0.008), and elevated RVSP (HR = 1.07, p = 0.007). Patients who developed PAH were more likely to have a FVC/DLCO ratio > 1.6 (HR = 5.8, p = 0.014), and patients who developed group III PH were less likely to have an elevated FVC (HR = 0.92, p = 0.001). Patients were more likely to develop a DL if they had a history of prior DL (HR = 7.0, p < 0.001), or were men (HR = 2.3, p = 0.007). In a prevalent cohort of scleroderma patients, individuals who develop PH or DL have simple to measure clinical features that can predict these complications years before they occur.

Keywords: Cohort studies; Pulmonary hypertension; Scleroderma; Wounds and injuries.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingers / blood supply*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology*
  • Ischemia / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Raynaud Disease / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / complications*