Measuring disease activity and functional status in patients with scleroderma and Raynaud’s phenomenon

Peter A. Merkel, Karen Herlyn, Richard W. Martin, Jennifer J. Anderson, Maureen D. Mayes, Patrice Bell, Joseph H. Korn, Robert W. Simms, Mary Ellen Csuka, Thomas A. Medsger, Naomi F. Rothfield, Michael H. Ellman, David H. Collier, Arthur Weinstein, Daniel E. Furst, Sergio A. Jiménez, Barbara White, James R. Seibold, Fredrick M. Wigley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

245 Scopus citations


Objective. To document disease activity and functional status in patients with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis [SSc]) and Raynaud’s phenomenon (RP) and to determine the sensitivity to change, reliability, ease of use, and validity of various outcome measures in these patients. Methods. Patients with SSc and moderate-to-severe RP participating in a multicenter RP treatment trial completed daily diaries documenting the frequency and duration of RP attacks and recorded a daily Raynaud's Condition Score (RCS). Mean scores for the 2-week periods prior to baseline (week 0), end of trial (week 6), and posttrial followup (week 12) were calculated. At weeks 0, 6, and 12, physicians completed 3 global assessment scales and performed clinical assessments of digital ulcers and infarcts; patients completed the Health Assessment Questionnaire (HAQ), the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scales 2 (AIMS2) mood and tension subscales, 5 specific SSc/RP-related visual analog scales (VAS), and 3 other VAS global assessments. We used these measures to document baseline disease activity and to assess their construct validity, sensitivity to change, and reliability in trial data. Results. Two hundred eighty-one patients (248 women, 33 men; mean age 50.4 years [range 18-82 years]) from 14 centers participated. Forty-eight percent had limited cutaneous SSc; 52% had diffuse cutaneous SSc. Fifty-nine patients (21%) had digital ulcers at baseline. Patients had 3.89 ± 2.33 (mean ± SD) daily RP attacks (range 0.8-14.6), with a duration of 82.1 ± 91.6 minutes/attack. RCS for RP activity (possible range 0-10) was 4.30 ± 1.92. HAQ scores (0-3 scale) indicated substantial disability at baseline (total disability 0.86, pain 1.19), especially among the subscales pertaining to hand function (grip, eating, dressing). AIMS2 mood and tension scores were fairly high, as were many of the VAS scores. Patients with digital ulcers had worse RCS, pain, HAQ disability (overall, grip, eating, and dressing), physician's global assessment, and tension, but no significant difference in the frequency of RP, duration of RP, patient's global assessment, or mood, compared with patients without digital ulcers. VAS scores for digital ulcers as rated by the patients were not consistent with the physician's ratings. Factor analysis of the 18 measures showed strong associations among variables in 4 distinct domains: disease activity, RP measures, digital ulcer measures, and mood/tension. Reliability of the RCS, HAQ pain and disability scales, and AIMS2 mood and tension subscales was high. The RP measures demonstrated good sensitivity to change (effect sizes 0.33-0.76). Conclusion. Our findings demonstrate that the significant activity, disability, pain, and psychological impact of RP and digital ulcers in SSc can be measured by a small set of valid and reliable outcome measures. These outcome measures provide information beyond the quantitative metrics of RP attacks. We propose a core set of measures for use in clinical trials of RP in SSc patients that includes the RCS, patient and physician VAS ratings of RP activity, a digital ulcer/infarct measure, measures of disability and pain (HAQ), and measures of psychological function (AIMS2).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2410-2420
Number of pages11
JournalArthritis and rheumatism
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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