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Arthritis in systemic sclerosis: systematic review of the literature and suggestions for the performance of future clinical trials in systemic sclerosis arthritis.

OBJECTIVES: Musculoskeletal (MSK) pain is a frequent (between 40-80%) complaint of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). Unfortunately, there are virtually no systematic studies of the causes or the management of MSK involvement in SSc and with few exceptions there have been no controlled trials to determine what are and should be the best strategies for managing MSK pain and synovitis in patients with SSc.

METHODS: A literature search was conducted for published reports that have addressed the clinical assessment of "arthritis" and "musculoskeletal" involvement in SSc. The literature search was a prelude to developing recommendations/suggestions for performing clinical trials (preferably randomized) in the future in SSc-related arthritis.

RESULTS: The search netted a number of articles that reported clinical assessments of arthritis in SSc, but very few reported results of controlled clinical trials. Nevertheless, a prevalence of clinical arthritis and tools used to assess the involvement (clinical examination, functional assessments and assessments of quality of life, and radiographic imaging) was found.

CONCLUSIONS: Most of the tools used to assess arthritis in SSc patients have not been validated and additional work is needed to develop a "core set" of variables for assessment of arthritis in SSc and its response to treatment. This report furnishes the background information that can help provide the building blocks for the development of a "core set" that can be used to chart the efficacy of new treatments for SSc-related arthritis in the future.

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