Background: Patients with systemic sclerosis (SSC) show a capillary abnormality of nailfolds with controversial correlation with organ involvement. Our purpose was to study the correlation between this nailfold capillary abnormality and pulmonary hypertension in patients with SSC.
Methods: We studied the nailfold capillaries, using capillary microscopy, and the pulmonary arterial pressure, using right-heart catheterization, in 44 patients with SSC. Canonical discriminant analysis was used to define the capillary abnormality in patients with SSC, which was then compared with that of 40 normal controls. The correlations between the patterns of nailfold capillaries and the cardiopulmonary findings, including the pulmonary arterial pressure, were examined using Fisher's test.
Results: Thirty-two of 44 patients with SSC could be differentiated from normal controls by our definition of the SSC pattern. The SSC pattern correlated significantly with elevated pulmonary vascular resistance, as well as with pulmonary fibrosis, electrocardiographic abnormalities, decreased vital capacity, and decreased diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide. All SSC patients with pulmonary hypertension showed this SSC pattern. In patients with elevated pulmonary arterial pressure, capillary microscopy and diffusion capacity for carbon monoxide (DCCM) showed the highest rate of abnormalities. A limited-type SSC significantly correlated with DCCM and with anticentromere antibody, and the diffuse-type SSC with pulmonary fibrosis and anti-sci-70 antibody.
Conclusion: Our data suggest that in patients with SSC, nailfold capillary abnormalities correlate with pulmonary arterial hypertension as well as with clinical and laboratory findings indicating pulmonary hypertension.