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Improved survival in systemic sclerosis is associated with better ascertainment of internal organ disease: a retrospective cohort study.

BACKGROUND: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) has high mortality and morbidity. Current management focuses on early detection and treatment of organ-based manifestations.

AIM: To determine whether the ascertainment of major organ complications of SSc has changed over time and if this is associated with better survival.

DESIGN: Retrospective cohort analysis.

METHODS: A total of 520 SSc patients, 234 with disease onset between 1990 and 1993 (historical cohort) and 286 with disease onset between 2000 and 2003 (contemporary cohort), were included. Survival and frequency of internal organ complications were compared between the two cohorts.

RESULTS: Five-year survival among diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc) patients has improved from 69% in the 1990-93 cohort to 84% in the 2000-03 cohort (P = 0.018), whereas 5-year survival among the limited cutaneous SSc (lcSSc) patients has remained unchanged-93 and 91%, respectively. Sixteen per cent of the lcSSc subjects and 38% of the dcSSc subjects from the contemporary cohort were diagnosed for the clinically significant pulmonary fibrosis compared with 3 and 7%, respectively, of the historical cohort (P < 0.001). Similarly, the diagnosis of pulmonary arterial hypertension was more frequent in the patients from the contemporary cohort (8 and 7% for lcSSc and dcSSc, respectively) compared with [ < 1% (P = 0.002) and 1% (P = 0.148), respectively] the historical cohort. There was no significant difference between the two cohorts in terms of scleroderma renal crisis and cardiac involvement.

CONCLUSION: Survival has substantially improved for the diffuse cutaneous subset of SSc with better and more complete ascertainment of lung complications as a result of systematic annual screening.

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