Skin ulcers in systemic sclerosis: Determinants of presence and predictive factors of healing

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Abstract

Background

Skin ulcers are common vascular complications of systemic sclerosis (SSc).

Objective

The aim of the study was to identify clinical, biologic, and imaging parameters that constitute risk factors for the occurrence and persistence of skin ulcers.

Methods

One hundred thirty Italian SSc patients were examined at entry and after 20 months of follow-up.

Results

The diffuse SSc phenotype with avascular areas on capillaroscopy, thrombophilia, and systemic inflammation as defined by interleukin 6 plasma levels, represented the major risk factors for ulcer development. Infection was associated with a risk of poor or no healing, and cardiopulmonary involvement was a major comorbid factor in patients with ulcers. The presence of infection and avascular areas represented the main determinants for ulcer healing.

Limitations

Our data should be confirmed with a longer follow-up period since skin ulcers represent a frequent vascular complication in scleroderma patients.

Conclusion

Aggressive therapies aiming at improving angiogenesis and controlling infection and the course of the disease appear to be crucial to obtain ulcer healing.

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