Spondyloarthritis at the crossroads of imaging, pathology, and structural damage in the era of biologics

Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2008 Oct;10(5):356-63. doi: 10.1007/s11926-008-0058-x.


Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is characterized by two key pathologic findings: sacroiliac joint and spinal inflammation and new bone formation with possible bone fusion, usually in the axial skeleton. Thus, structural damage in AS must be viewed differently than that in rheumatoid arthritis. Tumor necrosis factor blockers effectively inhibit inflammation, as shown by signs and symptoms, function, C-reactive protein, and MRI, and will probably prevent erosive structural damage. However, the ossification of already-damaged bone cannot be influenced by tumor necrosis factor blockade, because these drugs do not inhibit osteoblasts. It remains to be seen whether additional targeting of new bone formation is clinically meaningful in advanced AS. The most important action to prevent structural damage is probably an early diagnosis and effective anti-inflammatory treatment of AS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use*
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Factors / therapeutic use*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Osteogenesis / drug effects
  • Radiography
  • Sacroiliac Joint / diagnostic imaging
  • Sacroiliac Joint / pathology
  • Spine / diagnostic imaging
  • Spine / pathology
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing* / diagnosis
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing* / physiopathology
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing* / therapy
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Immunologic Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha