Ulnar artery involvement in systemic sclerosis (scleroderma).J Rheumatol. 2002 Jan; 29(1):102-6.JR
Microvascular disease is one of the hallmarks of systemic sclerosis (SSc, scleroderma), but macrovascular involvement also exists in some patients. Patients with SSc may have severe Raynaud's phenomenon (RP) characterized by refractory digital ulcerations. We investigated if large artery involvement, that is, ulnar artery occlusion, has a role in the development of refractory digital ulcerations, and if both screening for this involvement and revascularization of the ulnar artery occlusive disease may improve digital ulcer healing.
A retrospective chart review was performed of 15 patients with SSc, all of whom had severe RP and digital ulceration, together with a positive Allen test and ulnar artery occlusive disease documented by angiography.
Women outnumbered men 2:1, with limited disease predominating (7), 5 patients having diffuse cutaneous disease and 3 overlap syndromes. All patients had positive antinuclear antibody and capillary microscopy findings consistent with SSc. Antiphospholipid antibodies were present in 4 of 6 patients tested. Tobacco use was seen in 5 patients, only 2 of whom were current smokers. All patients failed conventional medical therapy (nitrates, calcium channel blockers, antiplatelet agents) for RP and digital ulceration. Only 1/8 patients improved with stellate ganglion block, and one patient had no improvement following digital sympathectomy. Eight patients underwent ulnar artery revascularization combined with digital sympathectomy, and 8 experienced dramatic improvement in RP and healing of digital ulcers.
An Allen test should be performed routinely on all SSc patients with severe RP and refractory digital ulceration to investigate the possibility of ulnar artery occlusive disease. If suspected ulnar artery occlusion is confirmed by angiography or ultrasonography, ulnar artery revascularization with or without digital sympathectomy should be considered in patients who fail conventional medical therapy.