Objective: To investigate the sustained effect of a rehabilitation programme for patients with ankylosing spondylitis, and to compare the effect of this intervention given in a Mediterranean vs a Norwegian setting.
Methods: A total of 107 patients with ankylosing spondylitis applying for rehabilitation were randomized to a 4-week inpatient rehabilitation programme in a Mediterranean country or in Norway. The participants were evaluated clinically before and after the rehabilitation period (week 0 and 4) and in week 16. The ASsessments in Ankylosing Spondylitis working group's Improvement Criteria (ASAS-IC), and tests of spinal mobility and physical capacity were used to measure treatment response.
Results: An ASAS20 improvement was still present at week 16 in 50% of the patients treated in a Mediterranean and 23% in a Norwegian centre (p = 0.006). The tests of spinal mobility, physical capacity, and almost all patient's assessments of health status (ASAS-IC components) were still improved at week 16 after therapy in both climatic settings. While the improvements in physical capacity were comparable, the spinal mobility and ASAS-IC components improved more, and improvements were sustained longer, after rehabilitation in a Mediterranean setting.
Conclusion: Patients with ankylosing spondylitis benefit from a 4-week rehabilitation programme in Norway, but even more so from a similar programme in a Mediterranean setting.