Ankylosing spondylitis is diagnosed first through a physical examination, in which a doctor will
take a thorough medical history and note symptoms that are consistent
with ankylosing spondylitis.
The doctor will likely order an X-ray, which can show changes in the spine
and joints that indicate ankylosing spondylitis. Other diagnostic tests include:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses magnetic fields and radio-frequency waves to create an image
of the spine, and can reveal the details of the disc, the nucleus (the
jelly-like substance within) and the annulus (the firm outer layer). An
MRI scan can also show evidence of previous injuries that may have healed
and other details in the spine that can’t normally be seen on an
x-ray.MRIs, which show the softer tissues, can detect the disease earlier
Blood tests: Blood is tested for the HLA-B27 gene, which is carried by more than 95
percent of those with ankylosing spondylitis.
Many cases ofankylosing spondylitis are treated without surgery. These
treatments may include anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and
drugs that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis such as methotrexate
Physical therapy is almost always part of the treatment. Patients are given daily exercises
for strengthening and stretching, along with deep breathing and posture
If the disease has progressed to the point that daily activities are severely
impaired, then surgery may be an option, including joint replacement surgery (see
Surgery for Ankylosing Spondylitis).
Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, our specialists have advanced training in diagnosing and treating conditions
of the spine.
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