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Spinal Surgery for Ankylosing Spondylitis: UAE's Healthcare Excellence

07 Nov, 2023

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Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine, causing pain, stiffness, and potentially leading to deformities. When conservative treatments fail to provide relief, spinal surgery becomes a viable option for patients in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In this blog, we will explore the various aspects of spinal surgery for ankylosing spondylitis in the UAE, including the condition itself, surgical procedures, recovery, and the state of healthcare in the country.

Understanding Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily targets the spine. It is characterized by inflammation of the spinal joints and ligaments, which can lead to the fusion of vertebrae, resulting in a rigid, immobile spine. Other symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include chronic pain and fatigue. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, genetics play a significant role, and it tends to affect more men than women.

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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic and inflammatory form of arthritis that primarily affects the axial skeleton, which includes the spine and the sacroiliac joints connecting the spine to the pelvis. This condition is characterized by several distinctive features:

1. Chronic Inflammation

Ankylosing spondylitis is marked by persistent inflammation, primarily affecting the spinal column and areas where tendons and ligaments attach to the bones. This inflammation can lead to pain, stiffness, and progressive joint damage.

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2. Progressive Fusion of Vertebrae

Over time, ankylosing spondylitis can cause the fusion of spinal vertebrae. As the condition advances, the spine becomes less flexible, potentially resulting in a stooped or hunched posture. This fusion process is known as ankylosis.

3. Early Onset

Ankylosing spondylitis typically makes its debut in early adulthood, commonly between the ages of 17 and 45. While it can affect adolescents, the diagnosis may be delayed due to its gradual onset and subtle symptoms.

4. Chronic Pain and Stiffness

Pain and stiffness are hallmark symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. The discomfort often worsens in the morning or after periods of inactivity but may improve with exercise and physical activity. The pain can be localized in the lower back, buttocks, and hips, and it can radiate down the legs or affect other joints, such as the shoulders and knees.

Common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis:

1. Pain and Stiffness

  • Chronic Back Pain: Persistent pain in the lower back or buttocks is a primary symptom of AS. This pain is often worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
  • Stiffness: Individuals with AS may experience stiffness in the spine and other affected joints. Morning stiffness that lasts for more than 30 minutes is a typical feature.

2. Reduced Mobility

  • Limited Range of Motion: As the condition progresses, the spine's flexibility decreases, leading to a reduced range of motion. This can affect one's ability to perform daily activities.
  • Posture Changes: Ankylosing spondylitis can cause a stooped or hunched posture due to the fusion of vertebrae, particularly in the spine's lower segments.

3. Fatigue

  • Chronic Fatigue: People with AS often experience persistent fatigue, which can be a result of both the physical toll of the condition and the body's immune response to inflammation.

4. Inflammatory Symptoms

  • Inflammation: In addition to the axial skeleton, AS can affect other joints, tendons, and ligaments. This inflammation can lead to swelling and discomfort in these areas.
  • Eye Inflammation: Some individuals with AS may develop anterior uveitis, an eye condition characterized by eye redness, pain, and sensitivity to light.

5. Radiating Pain

  • Radiating Pain: Pain may radiate from the spine to the hips, thighs, and other areas. This can lead to discomfort in various parts of the body.

6. Weight Loss

  • Unexplained Weight Loss: Some individuals with AS may experience weight loss due to a combination of factors, including reduced appetite and inflammation.

7. Respiratory Symptoms

  • Breathing Difficulties: Severe cases of ankylosing spondylitis can affect the chest wall, leading to breathing difficulties and reduced lung capacity.

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When Is Spinal Surgery Necessary?

Spinal surgery for ankylosing spondylitis is considered when the disease progresses to a point where it significantly impairs a patient's quality of life and conservative treatments (such as physical therapy and medication) are no longer effective. Common indications for surgery include:

  • Severe pain: When ankylosing spondylitis results in debilitating and unrelenting pain that severely impacts a patient's quality of life, despite conservative treatments.
  • Deformity: In cases where the disease leads to significant spinal deformities, surgery may be necessary to correct or stabilize the spine.
  • Neurological symptoms: Although relatively rare, ankylosing spondylitis can exert pressure on the spinal cord, potentially leading to neurological issues. In such cases, surgery is crucial to relieve this pressure and prevent further damage to the nervous system.

Spinal Surgery Procedures in the UAE

When considering spinal surgery for ankylosing spondylitis in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), healthcare professionals may employ various surgical procedures based on the patient's specific condition and requirements. These procedures are designed to alleviate pain, correct deformities, and improve the patient's overall spinal function. Some of the common spinal surgery procedures in the UAE include:

1. Decompression Surgery

When ankylosing spondylitis results in the compression of the spinal cord, decompression surgery is performed to alleviate pressure and prevent potential neurological damage. This procedure involves removing the source of compression, such as bone spurs or herniated discs.

2. Spinal Fusion

Spinal fusion is a surgical technique used to permanently connect two or more vertebrae. By doing so, it eliminates motion between them, providing stability to the spine. Spinal fusion can significantly reduce pain and improve the patient's spinal function.

3. Osteotomy

In cases of severe spinal deformity, osteotomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting and realigning the bones. This helps correct deformities and improves the overall alignment of the spine, enhancing mobility and comfort.

4. Disc Replacement

In some situations, artificial disc replacement may be considered. This procedure entails the replacement of a damaged disc with an artificial one, allowing for the restoration of spinal mobility and function while preserving natural movement.

Post-Surgery Recovery and Rehabilitation

Recovery and rehabilitation following spinal surgery for ankylosing spondylitis in the UAE are crucial phases of the treatment process. The success of surgery and the patient's long-term well-being depend significantly on how well they manage their post-operative recovery. Here's an overview of what patients can expect:

1. Rest and Monitoring

After spinal surgery, patients typically spend some time in a hospital or specialized care facility where medical professionals monitor their condition. The length of this stay varies depending on the type of surgery and the patient's overall health. Patients are encouraged to rest and allow their bodies to heal during this phase.

2. Pain Management

Pain management is a crucial aspect of post-surgery care. Patients are provided with pain medications as needed to ensure their comfort during the recovery process. Managing pain effectively enables patients to participate in rehabilitation and regain their strength.

3. Supportive Devices

In some cases, patients may be required to wear a brace to support their spine during the initial healing period. These supportive devices can help maintain proper spinal alignment and reduce the risk of complications.

4. Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy

Rehabilitation and physical therapy are essential components of the recovery process. Patients are typically referred to physical therapists who specialize in spinal conditions. These therapists work with patients to help them regain strength, mobility, and flexibility. Rehabilitation may include exercises, stretches, and mobility training tailored to the patient's specific needs.

5. Follow-Up Care

Follow-up appointments with the surgeon are essential to monitor the progress of the recovery and ensure that the surgical site is healing properly. Surgeons may order imaging tests to assess the fusion or alignment of the spine.

6. Gradual Return to Normal Activities

The timeline for returning to normal activities varies depending on the type of surgery and the individual patient's progress. Patients are encouraged to follow their surgeon's instructions carefully to avoid complications and promote a successful recovery.

7. Lifestyle Modifications

Patients may need to make certain lifestyle modifications to protect their spine and overall health. This can include maintaining a healthy weight, practicing good posture, and avoiding activities that place excessive stress on the spine.

Patient testimonials

1. John's Journey to Pain Relief:

  • "Ankylosing spondylitis had been causing me excruciating pain and limited mobility for years. After much research, I decided to undergo spinal surgery in the UAE. The surgical team was phenomenal. They explained every step, and the post-surgery care was outstanding. I can now stand tall and live pain-free. My heartfelt thanks to the UAE's healthcare system."

2. Emma's Remarkable Recovery:

  • "I was initially hesitant about having spinal surgery for my ankylosing spondylitis, but the expert care I received in the UAE put my worries to rest. The surgical team's professionalism and the state-of-the-art facility were impressive. The recovery process was challenging, but the physical therapy and support were exceptional. I've regained my mobility and can now enjoy life to the fullest."

3. Sarah's Gratitude for UAE Healthcare:

  • "Living with ankylosing spondylitis had taken a toll on my life until I chose the UAE for my spinal surgery. The care I received was unparalleled. The surgery was a success, and the rehabilitation program was tailored to my needs. The dedication of the medical staff and the advanced technology made all the difference. Today, I am pain-free and grateful for the UAE's healthcare system."

4. Mark's Life-Changing Experience:

  • "I can't express how grateful I am for the spinal surgery I had in the UAE. Ankylosing spondylitis had affected my quality of life for far too long. The surgery was a turning point. The surgical team's expertise, the top-notch facilities, and the ongoing support made a significant difference. I now have a better, pain-free life ahead of me."


Spinal surgery for ankylosing spondylitis in the UAE is a viable option for those who have exhausted conservative treatments and are suffering from severe pain, deformities, or neurological complications. With a well-developed healthcare system, highly skilled medical professionals, and a range of surgical options, the UAE is well-equipped to provide effective treatment and support for individuals facing this challenging condition. If you or a loved one is considering spinal surgery for ankylosing spondylitis, it's crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare provider to explore the best treatment options and determine the most suitable approach for your specific case

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Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the spine. It causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the spinal joints and can lead to the fusion of vertebrae, resulting in a rigid, immobile spine.