Research Article

Cutaneous microcirculation in systemic sclerosis and response to intra-arterial reserpine.

Br Med J 1980; 280 doi: (Published 14 June 1980) Cite this as: Br Med J 1980;280:1408
  1. K H Nilsen,
  2. M I Jayson


    The cutaneous microcirculation in the hand was measured in 23 patients with systemic sclerosis, 19 with Raynaud's phenomenon and four without Raynaud's phenomenon, and 20 controls. The patients with Raynaud's phenomenon had a reduced basal blood flow and an exaggerated further reduction on local cold stimulation, though both were normal in patients without Raynaud's phenomenon. Reflex-induced vascular changes by cold stimulation of the contralateral hand showed no differences between the three groups. The blood flows were similar in the affected skin of the anterior chest wall in four patients with systemic sclerosis and peripheral Raynaud's phenomenon and matched controls. In the seven most severely affected patients 1 mg of intra-arterial reserpine produced a prompt improvement in the cutaneous microcirculation which usually lasted one to three weeks but occasionally much longer. By judicious use of repeated injection guided by measurements of the microcirculation it was possible to heal indolent ulcers of the fingers. The results indicate that vascular changes are common in systemic sclerosis but are not fundamental in the pathogenesis of the disease. More probably there is a general soft tissue abnormality that usually but not necessarily affects the vessels.