Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine. This condition can also cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness in other parts of the body, such as the hips, knees, ribs, and shoulders. Doctors may recommend surgery for various reasons, including severe pain and mobility.
Most patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) use a combination of medication, exercise, and supplementary treatment to control their condition. However, some people may need surgery to help relieve their symptoms.
This article outlines when surgery is needed for AS and discusses the types of surgery available. It also looks at the benefits, risks, possible complications and financial costs of surgery.
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) does not always require surgery. In many cases, a person can use one or more of the following to manage the condition:
- drug: The doctor may recommend one or more of the following drugs to help manage AS:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Drugs that help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Corticosteroids: Drugs that help suppress inflammation. The doctor may recommend injecting corticosteroids directly into the affected joints to reduce local inflammation.
- Biological product: These refer to
Medication or treatmentContains proteins or other substances derived from natural sources (such as humans, animals, or microorganisms). They are a special type of disease-relieving anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD) that can help treat arthritis.
- Physical therapy and exercise: Regular stretching and low-intensity exercise can help keep the spine moving and improve posture.
- Adjuvant therapy: Patients with AS may also benefit from complementary therapies, such as:
If a person experiences one or more of the following symptoms, the doctor may recommend surgery for AS:
- Severe pain: The pain experienced by the person did not respond to over-the-counter medications (OTC) or prescription pain medications.
- inconvenient: The person experienced severe mobility impairments, which reduced their quality of life.
- Spinal fractures: This person has a spinal fracture or an increased risk of spinal fractures.
- Spinal fusion: This condition causes two or more cervical vertebrae to fuse, restricting movement of the neck or back.
- Severe kyphosis: This condition leads to severe kyphosis, which is a severe curvature of the upper back spine.
If a person is unable to perform daily functions, such as work or driving, the doctor may also recommend surgery.
The following are some of the different types of surgical procedures that may help treat AS.
Surgeons can perform laminectomy as open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. The latter involves the use of specialized equipment to enter the spine through a small surgical incision.
Spinal osteotomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting and reshaping bones to straighten the spine. This surgery may be suitable for people with severe curvature of the spine that can cause pain and reduce mobility.
Depending on the position of the spine curvature and the bone the surgeon needs to operate on, the operation may be different.
Spinal fusion surgery involves the fusion of two or more vertebrae. This procedure can help relieve pain caused by mechanical pressure between the vertebrae or between the vertebrae and the spinal cord. It can also help stabilize the spine.
The surgeon will use bone grafts from the person’s own body or a donor to fuse the vertebrae. The surgeon will then use rods, wires, and screws to hold the vertebrae in place while they are fused.
After surgery, a person needs to wear a back or neck brace to ensure that the bones heal in the correct position.
Learn about some of the best straps here.
Hip replacement surgery involves removing the hip joint and replacing it with an artificial joint. The surgery aims to improve the mobility of patients with severely damaged hip joints.
Surgeons can perform the surgery as open surgery or minimally invasive surgery.
People undergoing AS surgery may receive the following benefits:
- relief the pain: Surgery may help relieve severe pain caused by spinal compression, joint damage, or fractures.
- Increase liquidity: Surgery can help improve the range of motion of the joints.
- Improve posture: After surgery, a person may find that they can sit or stand with their back straight, or adjust themselves to a position that they previously found too difficult.
- Spinal stability: Some surgeries may help stabilize the spine.
Some of the potential risks and complications associated with spinal surgery include:
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The cost of surgery for AS depends on many factors, including:
- Where a person lives in the U.S.
- The surgeon’s experience in performing operations
- Complexity of the program
- Time required for recovery
- Whether the person has complications that require further treatment
If doctors think that surgery is medically necessary, they will only recommend surgery for AS. This means that a person’s insurance may cover the cost of surgery.
A 2015 study used Medicare data from 2012 to investigate differences in spinal surgery costs based on patients’ geographic location in the United States. The data shows that the average cost of upper back spine surgery is US$13,899, while the average cost of lower back surgery is US$13,899. The total average price is US$25,858.
The recovery time will vary depending on the type of surgery a person has and their overall health.
After the operation, a person will need to undergo regular check-ups with their medical team to ensure they are making good progress.
After the operation, a person will receive advice on caring for the surgical wound and how to monitor the wound for signs of infection.
A person should contact a doctor if they show any of the following signs of infection:
- Redness or swelling at the surgical wound
- Severe pain around the wound
- Flow out of the wound
People should also be aware that surgery increases the risk of blood clots. If a person experiences any of the following possible signs of a blood clot, they should seek immediate medical attention:
AS is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation of individual vertebral joints, where the spine, intervertebral discs, tendons, and ligaments are located. This condition can cause pain and reduce joint mobility. Severe AS can affect a person’s ability to perform daily tasks.
Not everyone with AS needs surgery for this. If a person experiences severe or persistent pain, severe mobility or a decline in quality of life, doctors usually only recommend surgery.
For people undergoing AS surgery, the outlook is generally favorable. However, people should be aware of the risks and complications of surgery. Anyone who develops complications after surgery should seek medical attention immediately.