Background: Patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) frequently suffer from recalcitrant digital ulceration because of impaired cutaneous blood flow (CBF). A simple and accurate CBF measurement would be helpful to evaluate the disease status and efficacy of treatment in such patients. Objectives: To examine the feasibility of a newly developed, micromachined integrated laser blood flowmeter (MILBF) for evaluation of abnormal CBF responses in patients with SSc. Methods: CBF of finger pulp was measured in eight patients with SSc and in six healthy controls using MILBF. CBF in the steady state and the responses to the arm-raising test and cold provocation were assessed. The therapeutic efficacy of a single and an intensive prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) infusion treatment was also evaluated in some of the SSc patients. Results: The patients with SSc showed significantly lower steady-state CBF than controls. The rate of blood flow with cold provocation and the velocity of blood flow recovery after cold provocation (VR-CP) tended to be lower in patients with SSc. Augmentation of amplitude of the digital pulse wave by arm raising (AA-AR) was observed in controls, but not in patients with SSc. We also found that VR-CP and AA-AR may be good markers for evaluating the efficacy of vasodilatory treatment. It should be noted that the examined patients did not complain of any pain and/or distress during the arm-raising test, as opposed to during cold provocation. Conclusions: CBF assessment using MILBF and an arm-raising test is accurate, noninvasive and well tolerated and thus the combination may be a better alternative method to evaluate abnormal CBF and efficacy of treatment in patients with SSc.
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