Digital Ulcers in Systemic Sclerosis – Frequency, Subtype Distribution and Clinical Outcome
Sevdalina Lambova, Anastas Batalov, Lyubomir Sapundzhiev and Ulf Müller-Ladner
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
Keywords: Digital ulcers, systemic sclerosis.
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