Monitoring the microcirculation in the diagnosis and follow-up of systemic sclerosis patients: Focus on pulmonary and peripheral vascular manifestations

Microcirculation. 2020 Nov;27(8):e12647. doi: 10.1111/micc.12647. Epub 2020 Jul 26.


Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a connective tissue disease, characterized by vascular damage and progressive fibrosis, affecting the skin and internal organs. The vascular changes include functional and structural abnormalities in the microcirculation, which play a central role not only in diagnosis but also in the prognosis and follow-up of systemic sclerosis patients. Nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC) is a safe, validated, noninvasive, inexpensive, reliable, and reproducible method that allows for the evaluation of structural changes in scleroderma microangiopathy. However, capillary blood flow/perfusion cannot be measured by NVC under standard conditions and, consequently, must rely on various laser techniques and thermography for the assessment and quantification of cutaneous blood perfusion. Other emerging technologies, such as optical Doppler tomography and spectroscopy, may be used to evaluate the skin flow. This review updates current knowledge on the use of microvascular evaluation techniques in SSc, including complications such as digital ulcers and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Keywords: Systemic sclerosis; blood perfusion; digital ulcers; laser techniques; nailfold videocapillaroscopy; peripheral microcirculation; pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Capillaries* / diagnostic imaging
  • Capillaries* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation*
  • Microscopic Angioscopy*
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / physiopathology
  • Skin* / blood supply
  • Skin* / diagnostic imaging
  • Skin* / physiopathology