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J Rheumatol. 2012 Aug;39(8):1648-53. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.111506. Epub 2012 Jun 15.

Digital amputation in systemic sclerosis: prevalence and clinical associations. A retrospective longitudinal study.

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Unità di Reumatologia, Policlinico G.B. Rossi, Piazzale Scuro, 37134 Verona, Italy..



To evaluate the prevalence of digital necrosis requiring surgical amputation in a single-center group of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) and to compare the characteristics of patients with and those without this severe complication.


We reviewed the medical records of 188 patients with SSc [162 women, 26 men, mean age 59.2 yrs, mean disease duration 8.0 yrs, mean time from onset of Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) 11.7 yrs, median followup duration 92 mo] enrolled in the Rheumatology Unit since 2004. Demographic and clinical features were collected, as well as the presence of the typical risk factors for atherosclerosis.


Nine patients (4.8%) underwent partial or total surgical digital amputation because of necrotic process; all these patients except 1 had a long history of multiple and persisting digital ulcers. All 9 patients had concomitant large-vessel involvement. Comparison of cases with and without digital amputation showed that this complication was associated with older age, long history of RP, long disease duration, presence of anticentromere antibody, and coexistence of peripheral artery disease and hypercholesterolemia. Discussion. We noted that 4.8% of patients with SSc underwent digital amputation. Our retrospective analysis suggests that peripheral artery disease is strongly associated with digital amputation. The preventive strategy for digital ulcers and amputation associated with SSc should include an extensive diagnostic and preventive investigation for peripheral atherosclerosis.

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