New perspectives in the imaging of Raynaud's phenomenon

Eur J Rheumatol. 2020 Oct;7(Suppl 3):S212-S221. doi: 10.5152/eurjrheum.2020.19124. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


The last 10-20 years have seen huge strides in imaging science. The aim of this review article is to share with the reader the key recent advances in non-invasive imaging of the digital (finger) vasculature in patients with Raynaud's phenomenon (RP), including in systemic sclerosis (SSc)-related digital vasculopathy. For the rheumatologist, seeing a patient with RP is an opportunity for early diagnosis of an underlying SSc-spectrum disorder or (conversely) for reassuring the patient with primary (idiopathic) RP. Non-invasive imaging techniques can help to provide diagnostic certainty. In addition, they can provide new insights into pathophysiology and have the potential to facilitate the development of much needed effective treatments by providing primary and secondary endpoints for randomized controlled trials: validation studies are ongoing. This review article focuses on nailfold capillaroscopy, thermography, and laser Doppler methods but also discusses (briefly) other technologies, including optical coherence tomography, multispectral imaging, and photoacoustic imaging. Key recent advances are the increasing use/availability of nailfold capillaroscopy (and better understanding of the role of low-cost hand-held devices), increased accessibility of thermography (including mobile phone thermography), and increased application of laser Doppler methods to the study of RP/digital vasculopathy (in particular of laser Doppler imaging and laser speckle contrast imaging, both of which measure blood flow over an area rather than at a single site). In an era of precision medicine, non-invasive imaging techniques can help stratify risk of (a) SSc in the patient with RP and (b) digital vascular disease progression in the patient with an SSc-spectrum disorder.

Publication types

  • Review