Raynaud's phenomenon is a prominent manifestation of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) affecting the hand. The resulting digital ischaemia may progress to digital tip ulceration or gangrene. Four patients with scleroderma, presenting with severe unremitting unilateral pain in the hand, were evaluated by arteriography and plethysmography. In addition to the usual changes of narrowing and occlusion of the digital arteries themselves, arteriography revealed more proximal occlusion of the radial and ulnar arteries at the wrist and the superficial palmar arch. Plethysmography confirmed virtual absence of pulsatile digital blood flow. Two patients underwent microsurgical reconstruction of the radial and ulnar arterial inflow into the hand and the superficial palmar arch using reversed interposition vein grafts, with immediate subjective resolution of their severe pain and rapid healing of the digital ulcers. Both remain pain free 1 year post-operatively, and pulse-volume recordings have confirmed objectively the restoration of pulsatile blood flow to the fingers.
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