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Summary

Background

Localized scleroderma is a rare but potentially disfiguring and disabling condition. Systemic treatment should be started early in those with active disease in key functional and cosmetic sites, but disease activity is difficult to determine clinically. Superficial blood flow has been shown to correlate with disease activity in localized scleroderma.

Objectives

To examine whether superficial blood flow measured by laser Doppler imaging (LDI) has the potential to predict disease progression and therefore select patients for early systemic treatment.

Methods

A group of 20 individuals had clinical assessment and scanning LDI blood-flow measurements of 32 affected body sites. After a mean follow-up of 8·7 months their clinical outcome was compared with the results of the initial LDI assessment.

Results

Eleven out of 15 patients with an assessment of active LDI had progressed clinically, and 16 out of the 17 scans with inactive LDI assessment had not progressed, giving a positive predictive value of 73% and a negative predictive value of 94%.

Conclusions

We believe that LDI can be a useful tool in predicting disease progression in localized scleroderma, and it may help clinicians to decide which patients to treat early.