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Nailfold capillaroscopy by digital microscope in an Indian population with systemic sclerosis


Dr Vivek Vasdev, Department of Rheumatology, Army Hospital (Research & Referral), Delhi Cantonment – 110010, India. Email:


Aim:  Nailfold capillaroscopy (NFC) is a simple, non-invasive method with exceptional predictive value for the analysis of microvascular abnormalities, especially in systemic sclerosis (SSc) but remains underutilized due to cost factors of the nailfold videocapillaroscope, lack of expertise and availability issues. The aim of this study was to establish the utility of an inexpensive digital microscope to study NFC changes in SSc in correlation with disease subsets and extent of skin involvement.

Methods:  Twenty-two diffuse cutaneous SSc (DSS), 20 limited cutaneous SSc (LSS) patients and 42 controls were evaluated with NFC using a digital microscope at 30× and 100× magnification. Digital micrographs were used to study qualitative and quantitative changes in microvasculature.

Results:  The capillary density was significantly less in all cases of SSc as compared to controls (5.3 ± 1.4 vs. 8.7 ± 1.2; P < 0.00001). Disorganized architecture was much more prevalent in DSS versus LSS (86.4%vs. 25%). The vascular deletion score (VDS) was significantly higher in DSS as compared to LSS (P < 0.0001). Scleroderma pattern (SP) was seen in 18 (81.9%) and 15 (75%) of patients with DSS and LSS, respectively. Only 4% of normal subjects showed non-specific pattern and none showed SP. The mean modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS) was positively correlated with vascular deletion score (= 0.572; < 0.001) and negatively with capillary density (= −0.8; < 0.001).

Conclusion:  Nailfold capillaroscopy changes in SSc are related to disease subset and MRSS. NFC with digital microscope is a simplified, inexpensive, outpatient procedure with results comparable to previous studies.