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Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2020 May;32(3):228-237. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0000000000000711.

Management of systemic sclerosis: the first five years.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Scleroderma Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.



This review provides a risk-stratified and evidence-based management for subsets of systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients in the first five years from disease onset.


Cardiopulmonary disease remains the primary cause of mortality in SSc patients. Morbidity and mortality in SSc-associated pulmonary arterial hypertension have improved with combination treatment, in either an upfront or sequential treatment pattern. Traditional therapies for interstitial lung disease (SSc-ILD) have targeted those with clinically significant and progressive ILD with immunosuppression. New data suggest a possible paradigm shift, introducing immunosuppressive therapy to patients before they develop clinically significant or progressive ILD. The year 2019 saw the approval of the first FDA-approved therapy for SSc-associated interstitial lung disease, using an antifibrotic agent previously approved for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. To date, only autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplant has demonstrated a mortality benefit for SSc-ILD, albeit in a narrow spectrum of SSc-ILD patients.


SSc is a highly heterogeneous autoimmune disease typified by varying clinical trajectories. Its management may be stratified within the first five years by subclassifying patients based on factors that have important prognostic significance: skin distribution and autoantibody status.

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