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Surgery in patients with systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) of the hand

Edward A Nalebuff, MD
Section Editor
John S Axford, DSc, MD, FRCP, FRCPCH
Deputy Editor
Monica Ramirez Curtis, MD, MPH


Patients with systemic sclerosis can experience significant pain and functional loss in affected hands. They are ideally treated by a team that includes a rheumatologist, a hand therapist, and a hand surgeon [1]. Initially, every effort is made to preserve function and to regain motion nonsurgically. This is done by mobilizing tissues, using exercises to increase range of motion, and using appropriate splinting.

However, selected surgery may be helpful in relieving pain and in restoring function. Examples of problems for which surgery may be indicated, as well as the types of procedure, include the following [2]:

Calcinosis may be treated by excision or curettage.

Interphalangeal (IP) joint fusions and metacarpophalangeal joint replacements may correct severe flexion deformities and may improve grasp.

Sympathectomy or vein bypass grafting may improve circulation to ischemic digits.

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 19, 2016.
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