JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
REVIEW
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Systemic sclerosis and the heart: current diagnosis and management.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: When present clinically, cardiac involvement in systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a major risk factor for death. It is therefore vitally important to understand the epidemiology, screening, diagnosis, and treatment of the cardiac manifestations of SSc.

RECENT FINDINGS: The epidemiology of cardiac involvement in SSc has been the subject of several recent studies. Most importantly, the prevalence of overt left ventricular (LV) systolic dysfunction and its associated risk factors have been defined, and patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc appear to be most susceptible to direct cardiac involvement. From a diagnostic and screening standpoint, tissue Doppler echocardiography and natriuretic peptides have provided fresh insight into subclinical cardiac dysfunction in SSc. Newer techniques, such as speckle-tracking echocardiography, diffuse myocardial fibrosis imaging, and absolute myocardial perfusion imaging, are poised to further advance our knowledge. Lastly, there is now consistent observational data to suggest a central role for calcium channel blockers in the treatment of microvascular ischemia and prevention of overt LV systolic dysfunction, although randomized controlled trials are lacking.

SUMMARY: Recent studies have improved our understanding of cardiac involvement in SSc. Nevertheless, key questions regarding screening, diagnosis, and treatment remain. Novel diagnostic techniques and multicenter studies should yield important new data, which will hopefully ultimately result in improved outcomes.

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