Sevdalina Lambova, W. Hermann and Ulf Muller-Ladner
Medical University – Plovdiv, Department of Propedeutics in Internal Medicine, Clinic of Rheumatology, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Plovdiv – 4002, 15A “Vasil Aprilov” Blvd, Tel: 00 359 32 607 317.
In the nailfold area, specific diagnostic microvascular abnormalities are easily recognized via capillaroscopic examination in systemic sclerosis (SSc). They are termed “scleroderma” type capillaroscopic pattern, which includes presence of dilated, giant capillaries, haemorrhages, avascular areas, and neoangiogenic capillaries and are observed in the majority of SSc patients (in more than 90%). LeRoy and Medsger (2001) proposed criteria for early diagnosis of SSc with inclusion of the abnormal capillaroscopic changes and suggested to prediagnose SSc prior to the development of other manifestations of the disease. It is a new era in the diagnosis of SSc. At present, an international multicenter project is performed. It aims validation of criteria for very early diagnosis of SSc (project VEDOSS (Very Early Diagnosis of Systemic Sclerosis) and is organized by European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Scleroderma Trials and Reasearch. Very recently the first results of the VEDOSS project were processed and new EULAR/ACR (American College of Rheumatology) classification criteria have been validated and published (2013), in which the characteristic capillaroscopic changes have been included.
Our observations confirm the high frequency of the specific capillaroscopic changes of the fingers in SSc, which have been found in 97.2% of the cases from the studied patient population. We have performed for the first time capillaroscopic examinations of the toes in SSc. Interestingly,“scleroderma type” capillaroscopic pattern was also found at the toes in a high proportion of patients - 66.7%, but it is significantly less frequent as compared with fingers (97.2%, p<0.05). In our opinion, the examination of the toes of SSc patients should be considered as it suggests an additional opportunity for evaluation of the microvascular changes in these patients although the observed changes are in a lower proportion of cases.
Thus, capillaroscopic examination is a cornerstone for the very early diagnosis of SSc. Patients with clinical symptoms of peripheral vasospasm (Raynaud’s phenomenon (RP)) in association with puffy fingers and/or sclerodactyly should be carefully examined. Hence, appearance of “scleroderma” type capillaroscopic changes in RP patients should be interpreted in the clinical context, because some of the components of this pattern may be observed in several other connective tissue diseases such as mixed connective tissue disease, undifferentiated connective tissue disease that are termed “scleroderma-like” capillaroscopic changes. Capillaroscopic examination is an obligatory screening method in these cases, but the pathologic capillaroscopic changes are not specific and their interpretation is in clinical context.