January 1969

Physiologic Studies in Systemic Sclerosis (Scleroderma)

Author Affiliations


From the Connective Tissue Division, Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore. Dr. Fries is now at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, Calif.

Arch Intern Med. 1969;123(1):22-25. doi:10.1001/archinte.1969.00300110024004

Electrical skin resistance and digital skin temperatures were measured in 33 patients with systemic sclerosis and 15 patients with Raynaud's phenomenon, and contrasted with measurements in normal control subjects and patients with other diseases. Scleroderma patients failed to show evidence of sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity by these techniques. Indeed, skin resistance findings provided some evidence for sympathetic hypoactivity in the fingertips. involvement of the sympathetic nervous system in scleroderma, if present, appears to be a secondary feature of the disease. "Sympathetic underactivity" might be a compensatory mechanism to increase blood flow in areas of severe peripheral vascular disease; the poor results with sympathectomy are thus not surprising. Catecholamine and monoamine oxidase (MAO) depletion secondary to sympathetic hypoactivity might explain the increased sensitivity to catecholamines and serotonin in the scleroderma patient.