Imaging digital arteries in systemic sclerosis by tomographic 3-dimensional ultrasound

M. Hughes, S. Rogers, J. Carreira, T. Moore, J. Manning, G. Dinsdale, C. McCollum, A. L. Herrick
Rheumatology International2020
Objective methods are needed to quantify digital artery disease in systemic sclerosis (SSc) for clinical trials of vascular therapies. Our primary aim was to examine feasibility of a novel tomographic three-dimensional-(3-D) ultrasound (tUS) with high-frequency ultrasound (HFUS) or ultra-high-frequency ultrasound (UHFUS) to assess the digital arteries in patients with SSc compared to healthy controls. A secondary objective was to compare the total wall volume (TWV) as a measure of intimal/medial thickness. Eighteen patients with a confirmed diagnosis of SSc were studied by tUS HFUS (17.5 MHz, n = 10) or tUS UHFUS (48 and 70 MHz, n = 8) with equal numbers of healthy controls of similar age and gender. The majority of patients had limited cutaneous SSc and were representative of a spectrum of digital vasculopathy, with over half (n = 6 HFUS and n = 5 UHFUS) having previous digital ulceration. Over half were receiving oral vasodilatory therapy. TWV was measured in both digital arteries of the middle finger bilaterally. At least, two digital arteries could be identified at 17.5 MHz in all patients and healthy controls. Whereas, at least two digital arteries could be identified in relatively fewer patients compared to healthy controls using 48 MHz (n = 6 and 10) and especially 70 MHz (n = 4 and 10) UHFUS. The median difference in TWV between patients and healthy controls was -6.49 mm3 using 17.5 MHz, 1.9 mm3 at 48 MHz, and -0.4 mm3 at 70 MHz. tUS using UHFUS is a feasible method to measure TWV of digital arteries in SSc. Transducer frequency plays an important factor in successful digital artery measurement, with 48 MHz being the optimal frequency.
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