The objective of this prospective study was to investigate the transition from primary (PRP) to secondary (SRP) Raynaud's phenomenon (RP), in a large cohort of patients affected by isolated RP.
A total of 2065 patients with RP were investigated by clinical interview, laboratory examinations, and nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC). Patients with negative NVC at first visit were yearly followed to monitor either the appearance of specific morphological alterations at NVC, or clinical manifestations of an underlying disease.
Capillary abnormalities at NVC were scored, as well as the qualitative patterns of microangiopathy (Early, Active and Late). NVC was found negative at first visit in 1500 subjects; among them, 412 patients were evaluable and they were followed for a mean time of 5±4 years (range 2-13 years).
Sixty-eight patients (16%) achieved a diagnosis of SRP during follow-up, showing normal or not specific capillary alterations at NVC 4% of patients (the diagnosis was undifferentiated connective tissue diseases), Early scleroderma-pattern 57%, Active scleroderma-pattern 7%, Late scleroderma-pattern 12%, and scleroderma-like pattern 18% of patients.
The time of transition from normal/not specific capillary alterations to Early scleroderma-pattern was 4.4±3.8 years. Enlarged capillaries (diameter between 20 and 50 microns) and mild reduction of capillary density were found the more frequent markers at first NVC visit in patients who progressed to a scleroderma pattern (P=0.01).
This study demonstrates in a large cohort, that almost 16% of patients initially diagnosed as affected by RP with negative NVC may transit to SRP during a mean follow-up of 4.4 years. PRP patients showing major notspecific alterations of nailfold capillaries at first NVC should be strictly monitored at least once a year since at higher risk of transition to SRP.