Background: Digital ulcers (DU) present a challenging complication in systemic sclerosis (SSc). The aim of this study was to combine clinical characteristics and imaging methods to a composite score for the prediction of DU in SSc patients. Methods: Seventy-nine SSc patients received clinical examination, their patient history was taken and nailfold capillaroscopy (NC), colour Doppler ultrasonography (CDUS) and fluorescence optical imaging (FOI) of the hands were performed at baseline. Newly developed DU over a period of approximately 12 months were registered. We used criteria with area under the curve (AUC) of at least 0.6 in regard to the development of these new DU to create the score (CIP-DUS, clinical features, imaging, patient history - digital ulcer score). Results: Twenty-nine percent of all SSc patients developed new DU during follow-up (48.1% diffuse, 18.4% limited SSc). Based on the cross-validated (cv) AUC, a weight (cvAUC > 0.6 and ≤ 0.65: 1; cvAUC > 0.65 and ≤ 0.7: 2; cvAUC > 0.7: 3) was assigned to each selected parameter. The performance of the final CIP-DUS was assessed with and without the CDUS/FOI component. For the scleroderma patterns in NC, three points were appointed to late, two to active and one point to early capillaroscopy pattern according to Cutolo et al. The CIP-DUS including the CDUS and FOI parameters resulted in a good diagnostic performance (AUC after cross-validation: 0.83, 95%CI 0.74 to 0.92) and was well calibrated (chi-square = 12.3, p = 0.58). The cut-off associated with the maximum of sensitivity and specificity was estimated at ≥ 10 points resulting in a sensitivity of 100% and specificity of 74% for new DU during follow-up. Excluding CDUS and FOI parameters leads to a non-statistically significant lower performance (AUC after cross-validation: 0.81, 95%CI 0.72 to 0.91). However, including CDUS and FOI resulted in a better classification of patients in respect to the outcome new DU in follow-up due to significantly better reclassification performance (NRI = 62.1, p = 0.001) and discrimination improvement (IDI = 9.7, p = 0.01). Conclusion: A new score was introduced with the aim to predict digital ulcers. If applied correctly and with the new imaging techniques proposed, all patients at risk of digital ulcers throughout 12 months could be identified.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)