Nineteen patients with limited systemic sclerosis (SSc) and without any cardiac symptoms were evaluated non-invasively for silent cardiac involvement using electrocardiography; M-mode, two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography, and resting and post exercise radionuclide ventriculography. Left anterior hemiblock and mild pericardial effusion were seen in two patients. The interventricular septal thickness and left ventricular posterior wall thickness were greater in patients compared with controls. Patients with limited SSc also exhibited low early diastolic filling velocities and a low early diastolic atrial filling ratio. However, these values did not correlate with the age of the patient or disease duration. Eight patients (42.1%) were found to have cardiac dysfunction, of which four had combined systolic and diastolic dysfunction. Isolated systolic and diastolic dysfunction was seen in three patients and one patient, respectively. The age and disease duration in patients with cardiac dysfunction did not differ from patients without cardiac dysfunction. Functional cardiac involvement occurs in a large proportion (42.1%) of patients with limited SSc, and can be easily picked up by non-invasive methods such as echocardiography and radionuclide ventriculography. The prognostic significance of these findings requires further long term studies.
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