Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 53, Issue 5, pp 1163–1174 | Cite as

Gastrointestinal Manifestations of Systemic Sclerosis

  • Robyn Domsic
  • Kenneth Fasanella
  • Klaus BielefeldtEmail author
Review Paper


Systemic sclerosis is a chronic disorder of connective tissue that affects the gastrointestinal tract in more than 80% of patients. Changes in neuromuscular function with progressive fibrosis of smooth muscle within the muscularis propria impair normal motor function, which may secondarily alter transit and nutrient absorption. Esophageal manifestations with gastroesophageal reflux and dysphagia are the most common visceral manifestation of the disease, often requiring more intense acid-suppressive medication. Gastric involvement may lead to gastroparesis, which can be found in up to 50% of patients. Severe small bowel disease can present as chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction with distended loops of small intestine, bacterial overgrowth, impaired absorption and progressive development of nutritional deficiencies. While not studied as extensively, systemic sclerosis often also affects colorectal function resulting in constipation, diarrhea or fecal incontinence. Nutritional support and prokinetics have been used with some success to manage gastric and small or large bowel involvement in patients with systemic sclerosis. Despite advances in management, significant gastrointestinal manifestations of systemic sclerosis still carry a poor prognosis with a five-year mortality exceeding 50%.


Dysmotility Gastroesophageal reflux Pseudo-obstruction Systemic sclerosis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robyn Domsic
    • 1
  • Kenneth Fasanella
    • 2
  • Klaus Bielefeldt
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Division of Rheumatology, Department of MedicineUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Division of Gastroenterology, Department of MedicineUniversity of Pittsburgh Medical CenterPittsburghUSA

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