We determined congruence with published guidelines from the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR)/EULAR Scleroderma Trials and Research group, for systemic sclerosis (SSc) investigations and treatment practices within the Canadian Scleroderma Research Group (CSRG).
Investigations and medication use for SSc complications were obtained from records of patients with SSc in the CSRG to determine adherence to guidelines for patients enrolled before and after the guidelines were published.
The CSRG database of 1253 patients had 992 patients with SSc enrolled before publication of the guidelines and 261 after. For pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) treatment, there were no differences in use before and after the guidelines, yet annual echocardiograms for PAH screening were done in 95% of patients enrolled before the guidelines and in only 86% of those enrolled after (p <0.0001), and fewer followup echocardiograms were done 1 year later in the latter group (88% vs 59%). No differences were found for the frequency of PAH-specific treatment; 60% had ever used calcium channel blockers for Raynaud’s phenomenon, with no differences in the groups before and after the guidelines. But the use of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (which does not have guidelines) was increased in the after-guidelines group. Proton pump inhibitors were used in > 80% with gastroesophageal reflux disease before and after the guidelines. One-quarter with gastrointestinal symptoms were taking prokinetic drugs. For those with past SSc renal crisis, use of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors was not different before and after the guidelines. For early diffuse SSc < 2 years, ever-use of methotrexate was similar (one-quarter of each group); and for symptomatic interstitial lung disease, 19% had ever used cyclophosphamide before the guidelines and 9% after (p = nonsignificant). CSRG practices were generally comparable to recently published guidelines; however, use of iloprost and bosentan was low for digital ulcers because these drugs are not approved for use in Canada.
There did not seem to be an increase in adherence to recommendations once the guidelines were published. For many guidelines, 25% to 40% of patients who would qualify received the recommended treatment.