DOI: 10.1093/rheumatology/kead445 ISSN:

Significant nailfold capillary loss and late capillaroscopic pattern are associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension in systemic sclerosis

Rossella De Angelis, Valeria Riccieri, Edoardo Cipolletta, Nicoletta Del Papa, Francesca Ingegnoli, Silvia Bosello, Amelia Spinella, Greta Pellegrino, Marco de Pinto, Silvia Papa, Giuseppe Armentaro, Dilia Giuggioli
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Rheumatology



To evaluate differences in nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC) findings between systemic sclerosis-SSc patients with and without a diagnosis of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).


110 SSc patients were enrolled in this cross-sectional, case-control, multi-centre study. Patients were divided into cases (SSc-PAH confirmed by right hearth catheterization-RHC) and controls (SSc-nonPAH with low probability of PAH). NVC patterns (early, active, and late) and morphological parameters (microvascular density, non-specific abnormalities, giant capillaries, micro-haemorrhages, avascular areas) were considered using a semiquantitative scoring system.


SSc-PAH patients showed higher frequencies of late pattern (p < 0.01), non-specific abnormalities (p < 0.01), lower capillary density (p < 0.01), higher avascular areas (p < 0.01), and a higher mean NVC score (p < 0.01). Contrarily, the early/active pattern (p < 0.01) and a higher rate of micro-haemorrhages (p = 0.04) were more frequent in non-PAH patients. By the multivariate analysis, SSc-PAH patients, compared to non-PAH, had more non-specific abnormalities (27/55, 49.1% vs 10/55, 18.2%, adjusted OR: 16.89, 95%CI: 3.06-93.16), a lower capillary density (grade 3, 20/55, 36.4% vs 5/55, 9.1%, adjusted OR: 38.33, 95%CI: 2.34-367.80), and avascular areas (18/55, 32.7% vs 10/55, 18.2%, adjusted OR: 16.90, 95%CI: 2.64-44.35). A correlation was found between the mean pulmonary arterial pressure-mPAP and avascular areas (p < 0.01), capillary density (p < 0.01), and non-specific abnormalities (p < 0.01). A clinical model including the NVC variables may be able to predict the diagnosis of PAH.


Our results indicate that the distinctive peripheral microcirculatory injury of SSc, i.e capillary loss and morphological abnormalities, appear more severe and pronounced in patients with SSc-PAH.

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