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Extended report
Skin thickness progression rate: a predictor of mortality and early internal organ involvement in diffuse scleroderma
  1. Robyn T Domsic1,
  2. Tatiana Rodriguez-Reyna2,
  3. Mary Lucas1,
  4. Noreen Fertig1,
  5. Thomas A Medsger Jr1
  1. 1Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2National Institute of Medical Sciences and Nutrition Salvador Zubirán, Mexico City, Mexico
  1. Correspondence to Dr Robyn T Domsic, S724 Biomedical Science Tower, 3500 Terrace Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA; rtd4{at}


Objective To examine the association of skin thickness progression rate (STPR) with mortality, and as a predictor of future internal organ involvement in an inception cohort of diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients.

Methods Diffuse cutaneous SSc patients older than 16 years of age evaluated at the University of Pittsburgh within 2 years of the first evidence of skin thickening between 1980 and 2005 were eligible. The authors calculated the STPR on these patients, and examined the relationship of this variable to the development of early internal organ involvement and short-term mortality using logistic regression.

Results 826 patients were included in the analysis. Patients with a rapid STPR experienced significantly reduced short-term survival at 1 and 2 years from the time of first Pittsburgh evaluation (p=0.002). Patients with a rapid STPR were more likely to develop renal crisis within 1–2 years of follow-up. Rapid STPR was found to be an independent predictor of both mortality (OR 1.72; 95% CI 1.13 to 2.62; p=0.01) and ‘renal crisis’ (OR 2.05, 95% CI 1.10 to 3.85; p=0.02) within 2 years from first evaluation.

Conclusion The STPR is an easy measure to perform at the time of initial evaluation for identifying those diffuse cutaneous SSc patients who are at increased risk of mortality and the development of renal crisis during the following 2 years.

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  • Funding RTD is supported by NIH 5K23AR057485.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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