Morphological and functional analysis of the microcirculation are objective outcome measures that are recommended for use in the presence of clinical signs of altered peripheral blood flow (such as Raynaud phenomenon), which can occur in systemic sclerosis (SSc) and other autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Several advanced non-invasive tools are available for monitoring the microcirculation, including nailfold videocapillaroscopy, which is the best-studied and most commonly used method for distinguishing and quantifying microvascular morphological alterations in SSc. Nailfold videocapillaroscopy can also be used alongside laser Doppler techniques to assist in the early diagnosis and follow-up of patients with dermatomyositis or mixed connective tissue disease. Power Doppler ultrasonography, which has been used for many years to evaluate the vascularity of synovial tissue in rheumatoid arthritis, is another promising tool for the analysis of skin and nailbed capillary perfusion in other autoimmune rheumatic diseases. Other emerging methods include raster-scanning optoacoustic mesoscopy, which offers non-invasive high-resolution 3D visualization of capillaries and has been tested in psoriatic arthritis and SSc. The principle functions and operative characteristics of several non-invasive tools for analysing microvascular changes are outlined in this Review, and the clinical roles of validated or tested imaging methods are discussed for autoimmune rheumatic diseases.

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