Prevalence and diagnostic value of nail fold capillary microscopy in hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia: A retrospective study

Vasc Med. 2020 Aug;25(4):341-347. doi: 10.1177/1358863X20910479. Epub 2020 Apr 17.


Abnormal vasculature is a key feature of hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) and can also present in the nail fold capillary beds. However, the exact prevalence and the clinical diagnostic value in HHT are still largely unknown. The nail fold can be easily and noninvasively inspected with a capillary microscope. We therefore retrospectively assessed the prevalence and diagnostic value of abnormal nail fold capillaries in all patients who were screened between January 2000 and July 2017 for the presence of HHT and underwent capillary microscopy in St Antonius Hospital, The Netherlands. Capillary microscopy results and clinical characteristics were extracted from medical files and the prevalence of abnormal nail fold capillaries was calculated and the diagnostic value of the Curaçao criteria with and without capillary microscopy results was assessed. Of the 1761 individuals screened, 923 (52%) were diagnosed with a clinical and/or genetic HHT diagnosis. In these patients, capillary microscopy was normal in 23% (n = 218), enlarged loops were seen in 11% (n = 99), and giant loops in 66% (n = 606). The sensitivity and specificity of the Curaçao criteria for the diagnosis of HHT without capillary microscopy results were 96% and 90%, respectively. The addition of the presence of giant loops to the Curaçao criteria led to a small increase in sensitivity to 97% without affecting the specificity. In conclusion, the prevalence of nail fold abnormalities in patients with HHT is high. Capillary microscopy can be a useful, easy, and noninvasive diagnostic tool in HHT.

Keywords: capillaries; hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT); microscopy; nails; telangiectasia; vascular malformations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopic Angioscopy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Telangiectasia, Hereditary Hemorrhagic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Telangiectasia, Hereditary Hemorrhagic / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult