To describe the natural history of ischemic digital ulcers (DU) in systemic sclerosis (SSc).
This single-center, retrospective, longitudinal study identified patients by demographic data, SSc history and type, Rodnan score, tobacco use, presence of autoantibodies, ongoing treatment, and DU history.
One hundred three patients were enrolled, 46 with DU history and 57 without; 2 with DU were excluded. The mean duration of followup from the first non-Raynaud SSc symptoms was 12.3 +/- 6.3 years in patients with DU history and 12.1 +/- 7.0 years in patients without. In 43% of cases, first DU occurred within 1 year following first non-Raynaud SSc symptoms, and within 5 years in 73% of cases. In a multivariate analysis, younger patients at occurrence of first non-Raynaud SSc symptoms (HR = 0.77 per each 5 years older, 95% CI 0.66-0.90) with higher Rodnan scores (HR = 1.21 per 5 points, 95% CI 1.05-1.47) experienced earlier DU occurrences, which were delayed by vasodilator therapy (HR = 0.17, 95% CI 0.09-0.32). Patients with shorter durations between first and second DU episodes, particularly with a second episode within 2 years of the first, experienced a higher yearly incidence of DU episodes (0.85 +/- 0.57 and 0.48 +/- 0.26, respectively, if less or more than 2 yrs; p = 0.04). Throughout the duration of followup, the incidence of finger amputation was 1.2% per patient-year in patients with DU history.
Patients who are young at first sign of SSc, with high Rodnan scores and without vasodilator therapy, are at high risk of developing DU. Development of DU typically occurred within 5 years of the first non-Raynaud clinical symptom of SSc in the majority of patients.