Objectives: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) and calcinosis, Raynaud's phenomenon, esophageal disease, sclerodactyly, telangiectasia (CREST) syndrome present distinctive microvasculature lesions that are thought to be responsible for tissue damage and disease progression. Involvement of the gastrointestinal tract may lead to the occurrence of profuse hemorrhage. We performed a study to assess the incidence and characteristics of gastrointestinal hemorrhage in a large group of patients with SSc and CREST syndrome.
Methods: We reviewed the medical records of 144 patients with SSc/CREST seen at our institution during the period 1985-1996. Endoscopic findings and clinical data were correlated. Data are expressed as means +/- SD.
Results: Twenty-two of 144 (15.2%) patients had at least one episode of gastrointestinal hemorrhage (16 women, 6 men; mean age, 59.4 +/- 17.6 yr). Eight patients (8/22; 36%) had multiple episodes and four (4/22; 18%) required chronic transfusion therapy. Mucosal telangiectasias were the most common cause of bleeding (9/22; 40.9%), followed by peptic ulcer disease (7/22; 31.8%) and erosive gastritis (3/22; 13.6%). Bleeding telangiectasias occurred in the entire gastrointestinal tract, including oral cavity (n = 1), esophagus (n = 1), stomach (n = 3), duodenum (n = 1), ileum (n = 1), cecum (n = 2), and colon (n = 2). Mortality was 22.7% in patients with gastrointestinal bleeding, compared with 7.3% in patients without bleeding.
Conclusions: Patients with SSc/CREST syndrome are at risk of developing severe gastrointestinal hemorrhage. This complication is associated with frequent hospitalization, blood transfusions, and increased mortality. Mucosal telangiectasias are the most common source of bleeding. Appropriate endoscopic intervention is recommended in evaluating and preventing bleeding in patients with SSc/CREST.