Affiliation: Medical University - Plovdiv, Department of Propedeutics in Internal medicine, Clinic of Rheumatology, Plovdiv – 4002, 15A “Vasil Aprilov” Blvd, Bulgaria.
Digital ulcers (DUs) are frequent and recurrent complication in systemic sclerosis (SSc) and are the main cause of pain, impaired function of the hand and disability in SSc.
The current study is a retrospective analysis of 60 SSc patients (47 patients with limited cutaneous SSc, 8 patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc and 5 patients with overlap syndrome, mean age 54.5±14.2 years, 52 women and 8 men). The frequency and evolution of DUs as well as the applied therapeutic strategies were analyzed. During the follow-up for a period between 6 months and 6 years, DUs at the fingers were registered in 35% of patients (21/60), more often in patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc (75%, 6/8) as compared with patients with limited cutaneous SSc (29%, 14/47, p<0.05) and overlap syndrome (20%, 1/5). The most frequently observed DUs were ischemic lesions at the fingerpads (85.7%, 18/21) and ulcerations over bony prominences of the fingers (23%, 5/21), which may be found simultaneously. More rare types of DUs were necrotic lesions (14%, 3/21). Thirty-eight percents (8/21) of the patients with DUs showed signs of inflammation. In one patient (4.76%, 1/21) an osteomyelitis developed and an amputation of a finger’s distal phalanx was performed. DUs at the toes were significantly less frequent as compared with DUs at the fingers (10%, 6/60, p<0.05). The period of healing of the DUs is prolonged and in the studied group was 3.39±2.39 months. The treatment regimen in SSc patients with DUs included vasodilators, local antiseptic treatment, antiplatelet drug; anticoagulant in cases with development of necrotic lesions, antibiotics in cases of infection or necrotic lesions, and other symptomatic therapies. In conclusion, DUs are a common complication in SSc and require complex therapeutic measures for achievement of a positive outcome.