Many cases of ankylosing spondylitis are treated without surgery (see Diagnosing and Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis). These treatments may include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and drugs, and physical therapy.
If the disease has progressed to the point that daily activities are severely impaired, then surgery may be an option, including joint replacement surgery.
In extremely rare cases, a procedure called an osteotomy with fusion may be used to fuse curved vertebrae together and straighten the spine. The goal of surgery is to eliminate compression of the nerve roots, and the second is to stabilize and fuse the spine with grafts, screws, and rods. The most common surgical procedure for ankylosing spondylitis is:
Laminectomy: A laminectomy is performed to relieve pressure on the nerve roots. This surgical procedure involves removing part of the vertebra bone called the lamina in order to access the disk. This minimally invasive technique requires a small incision in the back, where the muscles are pushed aside rather than cut. Removing the lamina takes the pressure off the spine. The surgery lasts approximately 1-2 hours.
The spine surgeons at Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery are part of Och Spine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, which has long been rated by US News and World Report as one of the leading hospitals in New York. Our Neurosurgery program ranks as the #1 program in New York (Newsweek). And our neurosurgeons and other specialists routinely appear on lists of Top Doctors and Best Doctors in New York. Together, the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center team is the best choice for your back (see Doctors Who Treat Ankylosing Spondylitis).
Reviewed by: Eric Elowitz, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: September 2020