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Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2023

People with axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) face a complex journey. But the right treatment plan can improve their lives. AxSpA treatments help reduce inflammation and pain and make it easier to move around. While there is not yet a cure for axSpA, new treatments are allowing those with axSpA to live fuller lives than ever before.1

Surgery is not usually the first treatment option for axSpA. But it may offer relief if other treatments have not worked. Surgery is a serious treatment option reserved for specific cases where it can be an effective treatment.1,2

Who needs surgery?

AxSpA is an umbrella term for several conditions that affect the spine. People with axSpA may experience pain and limited mobility, which can lower their quality of life. When these issues become too complicated or severe, surgery could be a good option for relieving some discomfort.1,2

Usually, surgery becomes an option after drug treatments fail. There are many reasons for surgery. Some of these include:1,2

  • Severe hip issues
  • Misalignment of the bones in the spine (vertebrae)
  • Problems with joint movement and flexibility

Surgery is a big commitment, and there are risks to consider. Your doctor will explain the possible complications. This way, you can make an informed decision about the treatment that best fits your needs.

What types of surgery do people with axial spondyloarthritis get?

Common surgeries for people living with axSpA include hip replacement and various spinal surgeries.3-6

Hip replacement

A total hip arthroplasty (THA) is also known as a hip replacement. A hip replacement can be a life-changing surgery for someone with axSpA. For many, constant hip pain caused by axSpA limits their mobility and quality of life.3

Hip replacements provide significant relief for most people. Nine out of 10 people say they feel less pain after surgery. They can move better, and this makes their lives better.1

Spine surgeries

One of the most common spinal surgeries used to treat axSpA is spinal fusion. Spinal fusions are recommended when the vertebrae become too unstable and painful due to inflammation from axSpA.1,4,5

The goal of this procedure is to make your spine more stable. During surgery, 2 or more vertebrae are joined together with metal hardware. This prevents movement between the vertebrae, helping to reduce pain and inflammation.1,4,5

Another type of spine surgery that is common in people with axSpA is wedge osteotomy. This minimally invasive procedure can treat an abnormal curve in the spine called kyphosis. During this procedure, sections of bone are removed to reduce that curve. This surgery helps relieve pressure and pain in your back and can improve your mobility.1,4,6

What are the possible side effects?

Surgery is a big decision that must be considered carefully. While it can provide relief from symptoms, there are possible risks and complications to keep in mind. These can vary depending on the type of surgery you receive.1,2,4

Problems stemming from axSpA surgery may include:4

  • Anesthesia issues
  • Risk of blood clots
  • Lung problems
  • Infection
  • Continued or worse pain
  • Spinal cord injury

These are not all the possible side effects of surgery for axSpA. Talk to your doctor about what to expect from axSpA surgery. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you after surgery.

Surgery is not right for everyone with axSpA. But for some, it might offer a great deal of relief and improved quality of life. Talk with your doctor to explore the risks and benefits of surgery based on how severe your symptoms are and their impact on your daily life. With the right treatment plan, surgery may be an effective way to reduce pain and improve mobility in people with axSpA.1,2

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