Cervical spine manifestations in patients with inflammatory arthritides

Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2013 Jul;9(7):423-32. doi: 10.1038/nrrheum.2013.40. Epub 2013 Mar 26.


The cervical spine can frequently become involved in patients with rheumatologic disorders, as a result of either the rheumatologic disease itself or age-associated degenerative processes that can also occur in the rest of the population. Awareness of the increased risk of cervical spine manifestations in patients with rheumatologic disorders enables early recognition and initiation of the appropriate treatment regimen. For example, patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) often have spinal instability which, if left untreated, can lead to neurological deficits. Biologic agents are effective in slowing the progression of the skeletal abnormality as well as for treating the RA, and this approach is often sufficient. However, early surgical intervention is recommended for patients with RA who develop neurologic deficits, as conservative approaches have limited effectiveness in this group. Spinal stability should be the primary surgical objective. For patients with ankylosing spondylitis, cervical spine surgery might be required either for fracture repair or to correct severe kyphosis. Understanding each condition's specific cervical spine manifestation and its natural history can help to clarify the appropriate indications for and timing of surgery to maximize patients' outcomes and limit complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / pathology*
  • Atlanto-Axial Joint / pathology
  • Biological Factors / therapeutic use
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Disease Progression*
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / etiology
  • Joint Instability / pathology
  • Joint Instability / therapy
  • Orthopedics
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / etiology
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / pathology
  • Spondylitis, Ankylosing / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biological Factors