Timing of cervical spine stabilisation and outcome in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

M. Schmitt-Sody, C. Kirchhoff, S. Buhmann, P. Metz, C. Birkenmaier, H. Troullier, V. Jansson, A. Veihelmann

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19 Scopus citations


One complication of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the involvement of the cervical spine (CS). Although prophylactic stabilisation is recommended, the timing at which this should occur is poorly defined. The aim of our study was to evaluate the course of neurological symptoms in terms of the timing of surgery. A total of 34 patients with RA and CS involvement were surgically stabilised. These patients were classified using the Ranawat (RW) score both preoperatively and at an average of 54 months post-operatively. For each patient, the presence of atlantoaxial and subaxial subluxation as well as vertical migration of the odontoid was recorded. The anterior atlantodental interval was also assessed pre- and post-operatively. Improvement was obtained in 20 patients, the clinical situation remained unchanged in three patients and three patients manifested disease progression. In terms of the RW score, the 16 patients with pre-operative RW grades I-II showed no deterioration at the post-operative follow-up, with 13 of these patients showing an improvement; the 12 patients with pre-operative RW grades IIIA-IIIB did not show any improvement of neurological symptoms at follow-up, although seven of these patients subjectively assessed the symptoms to be less severe after surgery; three other patients showed a worsening of symptoms. Our results suggest that preventive stabilisation of CS in RA leads to acceptable results, although the complications of the surgery are obvious. However, early operative treatment may delay the detrimental course of cervical myelopathy in RA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-516
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Orthopaedics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


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