Capillaroscopy changes are associated with disease progression in patients with early systemic sclerosis: A prospective study

Int J Rheum Dis. 2019 Jul;22(7):1319-1326. doi: 10.1111/1756-185X.13592. Epub 2019 May 2.


Aim: After the development of the 2013 American College of Rheumatology (ACR)/European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) classification criteria for systemic sclerosis (SSc), there are still a group of patients affected by early SSc who do not meet the new criteria. This study aimed to evaluate capillaroscopy changes and to identify predictors of progression to definite SSc in patients with early SSc over a 3-year follow-up.

Methods: In this prospective study, 44 patients with early SSc (LeRoy and Medsger 2001 criteria) were included. Clinical evaluation and widefield nailfold capillaroscopy were performed at baseline and after 3 years of follow-up. At the end of follow-up, the fulfilment of the 2013 ACR/EULAR criteria was also assessed.

Results: After 3 years, 34 patients with early SSc were re-evaluated. Of these, eight patients (23.5%) developed definite SSc. Worsening of capillaroscopy parameters was observed in 55.9% of patients. An increase in the number of giant capillaries and worsening of the avascular score were more frequent in patients who developed SSc than in those who did not (P = 0.02; P = 0.002, respectively). By multivariate analysis, an active or a late pattern at baseline on capillaroscopy was an independent predictor for the development of definite SSc (odds ratio = 30.0, 95% CI 2.1-421.1).

Conclusions: In this prospective study, worsening in capillaroscopy parameters was observed in early SSc patients. An active or a late pattern on capillaroscopy was an independent predictive risk factor for the development of SSc, suggesting that capillaroscopy might be a useful tool to identify patients with early SSc at risk of disease progression.

Keywords: Raynaud phenomenon; disease progression; nailfold capillaroscopy; prospective study; systemic sclerosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Capillaries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Microscopic Angioscopy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nails / blood supply*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Scleroderma, Systemic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Time Factors