Clinical significance of nailfold capillaroscopy in systemic lupus erythematosus: correlation with endothelial cell activation markers and disease activity

A Kuryliszyn-Moskal, M Ciolkiewicz, P A Klimiuk, S Sierakowski
Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 2009, 38 (1): 38-45

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether nailfold capillaroscopy (NC) changes are associated with the main serum endothelial cell activation markers and the disease activity of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

METHODS: Serum levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), endothelin-1 (ET-1), soluble E-selectin (sE-selectin), and soluble thrombomodulin (sTM) were determined by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in 80 SLE patients and 33 healthy controls.

RESULTS: Nailfold capillary abnormalities were seen in 74 out of 80 (92.5%) SLE patients. A normal capillaroscopic pattern or mild changes were found in 33 (41.25%) and moderate/severe abnormalities in 47 (58.75%) of all SLE patients. In SLE patients a capillaroscopic score >1 was more frequently associated with the presence of internal organ involvement (p < 0.001) as well as with immunosuppressive therapy (p < 0.01). Significant differences were found in VEGF (p < 0.001), ET-1 (p < 0.001), sE-selectin (p < 0.01), and sTM (p < 0.001) serum concentrations between SLE patients with a capillaroscopic score > 1 and controls. SLE patients with severe/moderate capillaroscopic abnormalities showed significantly higher VEGF serum levels than patients with mild changes (p < 0.001). Moreover, there was a significant positive correlation between the severity of capillaroscopic changes and the Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI) (p < 0.005) as well as between capillaroscopic score and VEGF serum levels (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings confirm the usefulness of NC as a non-invasive technique for the evaluation of microvascular involvement in SLE patients. A relationship between changes in NC, endothelial cell activation markers and clinical features of SLE suggest an important role for microvascular abnormalities in clinical manifestation of the disease.

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