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Digital vascular response to topical glyceryl trinitrate, as measured by laser Doppler imaging, in primary Raynaud's phenomenon and systemic sclerosis.

Rheumatology 2002 March
OBJECTIVE: To investigate digital microvascular responses to topical glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) in patients with primary Raynaud's phenomenon (PRP), limited cutaneous systemic sclerosis (LCSSc) and healthy control subjects, using laser Doppler imaging.

METHODS: Ten patients with PRP, 13 with LCSSc and 10 control subjects were studied. Baseline skin microvascular blood flow of the dorsum of the index, middle and ring fingers of the non-dominant hand was measured using scanning laser Doppler imaging. After the initial image, 2% GTN ointment was rubbed on the dorsum of one finger for 1 min; placebo ointment was rubbed on the dorsum of a second finger for 1 min, and the third finger remained untreated. Further laser Doppler scanning of these three fingers was conducted immediately, 10 and 20 min after ointment application.

RESULTS: There was increased blood flow response to placebo compared with no treatment (P<0.001) and to GTN compared with placebo (P=0.004). The change in blood flow over time differed significantly between placebo and GTN (P<0.001), but not between placebo and no ointment application: blood flow increased with GTN and decreased with placebo/no treatment at 10 and 20 min. There were no differences in initial baseline blood flow or response between the subject groups.

CONCLUSIONS: An exogenous supply of nitric oxide by topical GTN ointment causes local endothelial-independent vasodilatory responses in PRP, LCSSc patients and control subjects. As well as demonstrating the effectiveness of topical GTN in patients with PRP and LCSSc, this study illustrates the ability of laser Doppler imaging to quantify local vasodilatory effects.

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