Body composition and bone status in relation to microvascular damage in systemic sclerosis patients



To evaluate, in Systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients, the body composition and the bone status according to the peripheral microcirculatory condition, assessed and scored by nailfold videocapillaroscopy (NVC, “Early”, “Active”, “Late” patterns).


Body composition and bone mineral density (BMD) were assessed by Dual X-ray absorptiometry and dedicated software (GE Lunar USA) in 37 female SSc patients classified according to the 2013 EULAR/ACR criteria and 40 sex-matched healthy subjects. Clinical, laboratory, body composition and bone parameters were analyzed according to the different NVC patterns. Means were compared by the Student’s t test or one-way analysis of variance; medians were compared by the Kruskal–Wallis test; and frequencies by the chi-square test.


Higher prevalence of vertebral (21% vs 7%) and femoral (35% vs 7%) osteoporosis (OP) was found in SSc. Particularly SSc patients with “Late” NVC pattern showed a significantly higher prevalence of vertebral (p = 0.018) and femoral OP (p = 0.016). Regional assessment of bone mass (BM) in seven different body areas showed a significantly lower BMD only at the total spine (p = 0.008) and femoral neck (p = 0.027) in advanced microvascular damage. Patients with “Late” NVC pattern showed a lower whole-body lean mass (LM) compared to “Early” and “Active” NVC patterns, particularly at upper limbs. To note, in all body sites, BMD correlates with LM and BMC according to NVC pattern severity.


SSc patients with most severe microvascular damage show a significantly altered body composition and bone status suggesting a strong link between microvascular failure and associated muscle/bone sufferance.

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Dr. De Gregorio Sara for graphic support. V. Smith is Senior Clinical Investigator of the Research Foundation - Flanders (Belgium) (FWO) (grant no.:

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Paolino, S., Gotelli, E., Goegan, F. et al. Body composition and bone status in relation to microvascular damage in systemic sclerosis patients. J Endocrinol Invest 44, 255–264 (2021).

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  • Systemic sclerosis
  • Body composition
  • Bone mineral density
  • Sarcopenia
  • Capillaroscopy
  • Connective tissue diseases
  • Rheumatic diseases