Despite increasing interest in nailfold capillaroscopy, objective measures of capillary structure and blood flow have been little studied. We aimed to test the hypothesis that structural measurements, capillary flow, and a combined measure have the predictive power to separate patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) from those with primary Raynaud's phenomenon (PRP) and healthy controls (HC).
50 patients with SSc, 12 with PRP, and 50 HC were imaged using a novel capillaroscopy system that generates high-quality nailfold images and provides fully-automated measurements of capillary structure and blood flow (capillary density, mean width, maximum width, shape score, derangement and mean flow velocity). Population statistics summarise the differences between the three groups. Areas under ROC curves (AZ) were used to measure classification accuracy when assigning individuals to SSc and HC/PRP groups.
Statistically significant differences in group means were found between patients with SSc and both HC and patients with PRP, for all measurements, e.g. mean width (μm) ± SE: 15.0 ± 0.71, 12.7 ± 0.74 and 11.8 ± 0.23 for SSc, PRP and HC respectively. Combining the five structural measurements gave better classification (AZ = 0.919 ± 0.026) than the best single measurement (mean width, AZ = 0.874 ± 0.043), whilst adding flow further improved classification (AZ = 0.930 ± 0.024).
Structural and blood flow measurements are both able to distinguish patients with SSc from those with PRP/HC. Importantly, these hold promise as clinical trial outcome measures for treatments aimed at improving finger blood flow or microvascular remodelling.