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Axial spondyloarthritis 

Axial spondyloarthritis
Axial spondyloarthritis

Denis Poddubnyy

and Joachim Sieper



Minor updates throughout chapter and references

Updated on 24 May 2018. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 09 December 2019

Axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA) is a chronic inflammatory disease predominantly of the sacroiliac joint (SIJ) and the spine. It starts normally in the second decade of life and has a slight male predominance. The prevalence is between 0.2% and 0.8% and is strongly dependent on the prevalence of HLA-B27 in a given population. AxSpA can be split in patients with radiographic axSpA (also termed ankylosing spondylitis (AS)) and in patients with non-radiographic axSpA (nr-axSpA). For the diagnosis of AS, the presence of radiographic sacroiliitis is mandatory. However, radiographs do not detect active inflammation but only structural bony damage. Most recently new classification criteria for axSpA have been developed by the Assessment of Spondylo-Arthritis International Society (ASAS) which cover AS but also the earlier form of nr-axSpA. MRI has become an important new tool for the detection of subchondral bone marrow inflammation in SIJ and spine and has become increasingly important for an early diagnosis. HLA-B27 plays a central role in the pathogenesis but its exact interaction with the immune system has not yet been clarified. Besides pain and stiffness in the axial skeleton patients suffer also from periods of peripheral arthritis, enthesitis, and uveitis. New bone formation as a reaction to inflammation and subsequent ankylosis of the spine determine long-term outcome in a subgroup of patients. Currently only non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) blockers have been proven to be effective in the medical treatment of axial SpA, and international ASAS recommendations for the structured management of axial SpA have been published based on these two types of drugs. Conventional disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) such as methotrexate are not effective.

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