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Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2015 Oct;67(10):1426-39. doi: 10.1002/acr.22595.

Effectiveness of Nonpharmacologic Interventions in Systemic Sclerosis: A Systematic Review.

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Sint Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, and Haga Teaching Hospital, The Hague, The Netherlands.
University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.



To systematically and comprehensively document the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic interventions on physical functioning and psychological well-being in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc).


Multiple electronic databases were searched for studies on the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic interventions in SSc. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs), controlled clinical trials (CCTs), and observational designs (ODs) with ≥10 participants were included. Two reviewers independently assessed methodologic quality using the Downs and Black checklist.


Twenty-three studies (9 RCTs, 4 CCTs, and 10 ODs) were included. Studies assessing comparable interventions were grouped, resulting in data for 16 different interventions. The total number of patients included per study ranged from 10 to 53. Seventeen different outcome domains were assessed, with hand function, limitations in activities, and quality of life being assessed most frequently. Three studies, all RCTs, were rated as high quality. These RCTs reported that 1) a multifaceted oral health intervention improves mouth hygiene, and additional orofacial exercises did not improve mouth opening, 2) a multidisciplinary team-care program improves limitations in activities, mouth opening, and hand grip strength, and 3) manual lymph drainage improves hand function, limitations in activities, and quality of life.


The body of knowledge regarding nonpharmacologic care in SSc is very limited due to the wide variety in studied interventions and outcomes in the relatively uncommon but highly disabling disease. To structure and focus future research, an international consensus should be established to prioritize primary targets for nonpharmacologic treatment and the content of interventions and to agree on a core set of outcome measures.

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