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Objectives: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is characterized by altered microvascular structure and function. Nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC) is the tool to evaluate capillary morphological structure and laser-Doppler Blood flowmetry (LDF) can be used to estimate cutaneous blood flow of microvessels. The aim of this study was to investigate possible relationships between capillary morphology and blood flow in SSc. Methods: 27 SSc patients and 12 healthy subjects were enrolled. SSc microvascular involvement, as evaluated by NVC, was classified in three different patterns (“Early”, “Active”, “Late”). LDF analysis was performed at the II, III, IV, V hand fingers in both hands and both at cutaneous temperature and at 36°C. Statistical evaluation was carried out by non-parametric procedures. Results: Blood flow was found significantly lower in SSc patients when compared with healthy subjects (p<0.05). The heating of the probe to 36°C induced a significant increase in peripheral blood flow in all subjects compared to baseline (p <0.05), however, the amount of variation was significantly lower in patients with SSc, compared with healthy controls (p <0.05). The SSc patients with NVC “Late” pattern, showed lower values of peripheral blood flow than patients with NVC “Active” or “Early” patterns (p<0.05). Moreover, a negative correlation between the tissue perfusion score and the progression of the SSc microangiopathy was observed, as well as between the tissue perfusion and the duration of the Raynaud’s phenomenon (p <0.03). Conclusions: LDF can be employed to evaluate blood perfusion in the microvascular circulation in SSc patients. The blood flow changes observed with the LDF seem to correlate with the severity of microvascular damage in SSc as detected by NVC.
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