Skip to Main Content


Therapeutic Approach

Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma, SSc) is a rare autoimmune-driven connective tissue disease.1 It is characterized by fibrosis of the skin and involvement of many internal organs including the lungs, the heart, the GI-tract, the kidneys, and the musculoskeletal system.1 The underlying pathophysiology is not completely understood but it is known that an initial endothelial damage leads to an early inflammatory and finally fibrotic reaction. The resulting accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) is responsible for tissue damage and the characteristic clinical symptoms.1 SSc is a heterogeneous disease and occurs in several subsets, which differ in the severity and course of the disease. For therapeutic consideration the limited cutaneous form, the diffuse subset, and the overlap syndrome need to be differentiated.1-3

Monitoring Approach

Monitoring the disease to follow efficiency of therapies is difficult and requires clinical experience. For organ complications, several noninvasive and invasive techniques are available and are currently used. A close interdisciplinary cooperation is required for selecting the appropriate technique.

For skin fibrosis, clinical inspections and the modified Rodnan skin score (mRSS) are routinously applied. Ultrasonic evaluation of skin thickness and measuring skin hardening using a durometer are used in more specialized centers. To monitor patient-reported outcome a special composition of questions has been developed (SSPRO). Also the health assessment questionnaire disability index (HAQ-DI) or the scleroderma health assessment questionaire (SHAQ) is used in clinical studies. More recently, a combined response index for systemic sclerosis (CRISS) has been reported as a clinical outcome measure. The frequency of monitoring depends on the development of the disease and the individual patient. In stable disease, monitoring should be performed at least once a year and should include skin involvement and search for internal manifestations. In rapidly progressing diffuse SSc, patients should be seen regularly every 3 month or depending on medication and organ involvement/symptoms. See Tables 48-1 and 48-2.

Table 48-1Systemic Sclerosis Treatment Table

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.