Abstract Background A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was performed to confirm preliminary uncontrolled data indicating that regional adipose tissue (AT) grafting (G) is effective in inducing ischemic digital ulcer (IDU) healing in patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). Patients and methods SSc patients with IDUs were randomized to be blindly treated with AT-G or a sham procedure (SP). AT-G consisted of injection, at the base of the finger with the IDU, of 0.5–1 ml AT after centrifugation of fat aspirate. The SP consisted of false liposuction and local injection of saline solution. The primary endpoint was to compare the cumulative prevalence of healed IDUs in the two groups within the following 8 weeks. Results AT-G and the SP were carried out in 25 and 13 patients, respectively. The two groups were comparable for age, gender, disease duration, and SSc subtypes. IDU healing was observed in 23/25 and 1/13 patients treated with AT-G and the SP, respectively (p < 0.0001). The 12 patients who received the unsuccessful SP underwent a rescue AT-G. In all of them, IDU healing was observed after 8 weeks of observation. It was noticeable that in the AT-G-treated patients a significant reduction of pain intensity (measured by visual analogue scale) was recorded after 4 and 8 weeks (p < 0.0001 in all cases). Similarly, a significant increase of capillary numbers in the affected finger was recorded by nailfold videocapillaroscopy after 4 and 8 weeks (p < 0.0001 in both cases). Conclusion This RCT strongly confirms that AT-G is effective in inducing IDU healing in SSc patients. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT03406988. Registered retrospectively on 25 January 2018.