Spine Surgery and Spinal Inflammatory Arthritis
Surgery has a limited role in treating spinal inflammatory arthritis. Occasionally, surgery is offered to patients suffering uncontrollable pain. However, more frequently, surgery is performed to treat a complication of inflammatory arthritis.
For example, rheumatoid arthritis may lead to instability of the cervical (neck) spine and pressure on the spinal cord. In these patients, surgical decompression and stabilization of the spine is warranted. In other patients, inflammatory arthritis and steroids used to treat the disease lead to osteoporosis and spinal fractures, which may require surgical treatment (fixation).
In certain forms of inflammatory arthritis, such as ankylosing spondylitis, chronic destruction of spinal joints causes one bone to heal to another (fuse) - often, in a functionally limiting forward tilted posture (called chin on chest deformity). Here too, surgery is considered to realign the spine and improve patient function.
With better medical management of the underlying spinal arthritis, surgery to treat complications of spinal inflammatory arthritis has become less common.