2013 classification criteria outperform 1980 measures
New classification criteria for systemic sclerosis have just been published and are more sensitive than the 1980 criteria, enabling earlier identification and treatment of this disabling autoimmune disease. The 2013 criteria, developed by a joint committee commissioned by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR), are published in the ACR journal, Arthritis & Rheumatism.
Systemic sclerosis, also known as scleroderma, is a connective tissue disease that is characterized by sclerodermatous skin changes-a hardening of tissue due to increased collagen deposits; Raynaud's phenomenon-spasms of small blood vessels in response to cold or stress that cause color changes in fingers or toes, to obliteration of blood vessels (vasculopathy) leading to tissue death; and internal organ fibrosis-formation of excess tissue that scars organs. The ACR estimates that systemic sclerosis affects 49,000 U.S. adults.
The joint ACR-EULAR committee was led by Dr. Janet Pope from Western University, St. Joseph's Health Care London in Ontario, Canada, and Dr. Frank van den Hoogen from St. Maartenskliniek in The Netherlands. The committee's intent was to improve the classification of systemic sclerosis by clustering items and simplifying the weighting of the different criteria. The new criteria set was tested for specificity and sensitivity by comparing scleroderma cases with controls (patients with disorders similar to scleroderma), and validated by experts viewing cases with and without the disease.
"There is a need for improved classification criteria for systemic sclerosis," explains Dr. van den Hoogen. "The 1980 ACR criteria were not sensitive enough to identify patients with early disease or limited cutaneous system sclerosis. Our efforts with the joint committee addressed this sensitivity issue, resulting in the 2013 classification criteria for systemic sclerosis."