Assessment of disease activity is a major challenge in the management of children with localized scleroderma. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF) in comparison with infrared thermography in the detection of scleroderma disease activity.


In 41 children with localized scleroderma, 111 lesions were assessed on 2 separate occasions, by clinical examination, LDF, and thermography. Measurements from contralateral areas of unaffected skin served as intrapatient controls, and differences in blood flow and temperature were calculated between the corresponding sites. The sensitivity and specificity to detect clinically active lesions were compared between LDF and thermography.


Seventy-five active lesions (34%) and 147 inactive lesions (66%) were identified clinically. The median relative increase in blood flow measured by LDF was +89% (range −69% to +449%) for clinically active lesions and +11% (range −46% to +302%) for clinically inactive lesions (P < 0.001). Thermography showed a median difference in temperature of +0.5°C (range −0.1°C to +4.1°C) and +0.3°C (range −1.9°C to +2.7°C) for clinically active lesions and clinically inactive lesions, respectively (P = 0.024). Using a cutoff level of 39% to indicate increase in blood flow, a sensitivity of 80% and specificity of 77% to detect clinically active lesions were observed; for thermography, no useful cutoff level was identified. The correlation between differences in blood flow and differences in temperature was small, but significant (r2 = 0.120, P < 0.001).


LDF is a helpful, noninvasive diagnostic technique that can be used to discriminate disease activity in children with localized scleroderma, and is more accurate than thermography for this purpose.