Scleroderma heart involvement (SHI) is often manifest, and virtually always present when accurately searched and holds a significant prognostic value. Myocardial involvement by patchy fibrosis (secondary to both repeated ischaemia and immunoinflammatory damage) leads to ventricular diastolic dysfunction, whereas right ventricle overload and failure may complicate pulmonary hypertension. Left ventricular systolic dysfunction is present in a minority of patients, namely those presenting atherosclerotic coronary artery disease and/or arterial hypertension, sometimes triggered by sclerodermic renal involvement. Dysrhythmias and conduction disturbances are considered an hallmark of SHI, facilitated by autonomic dysfunction. SHI is frequently linked to parenchimal and/or vascular lung disease; they determine symptom occurrence, particularly dyspnoea, fatigue, palpitations and chest pain when pericardium is affected. Accurate cardiologic baseline screening and subsequent follow-up are mandatory in all patients, initially consisting in some noninvasive diagnostic procedures: visit, electrocardiogram (EKG), chest X-ray, Doppler-echocardiography. When needed, these examinations should be integrated by EKG Holler-monitoring, cardiopulmonary stress tests, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear studies of myocardial function and perfusion, cardiac catheterization to better estimate pulmonary hypertension, and cardiac natriuretic hormone evaluation. Several vasodilator approaches (prostacycline or NO/endothelin) may counteract the microvascular dysfunction at peripheral and cardiopulmonary level, and fight the sequelae of pulmonary hypertension. © 2005 Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.
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