Imaging techniques for assessment of vascular involvement in systemic sclerosis

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2022 Nov 1;34(6):311-318. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000901. Epub 2022 Aug 24.


Purpose of review: Vascular assessment in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is included in classification criteria for this disease, thus routinely used in the evaluation of patients in which this diagnosis is being considered. In this review, imaging techniques for assessment of vascular involvement in SSc hands and skin are discussed.

Recent findings: Longitudinal use of imaging techniques has important implications for understanding the progressive vasculopathy and fibrotic transition in SSc. Nailfold and oral capillaroscopy as well as laser speckle contrast analysis are established techniques for vascular functional assessment, but longitudinal use is challenged by equipment costs and clinical time constraints. Ultrasound techniques are well described but require technical training. Advances in mobile infrared thermography and optical coherence tomography could potentially provide a point-of-care, quantitative outcome measure in clinical trials and practice.

Summary: The equipment cost, technical training, data standardization, and invasiveness of vascular assessment techniques that quantify morphological (microangiopathy) and functional (blood flow reduction) are critical for implementation into SSc clinical trials and practice to understand progressive vasculopathy, such as wound development.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Microscopic Angioscopy* / methods
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / complications
  • Scleroderma, Systemic* / diagnostic imaging
  • Skin / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography