What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Spondylitis (AS) is an autoimmune disease - the body is attacking
itself. One of the hallmarks of AS is inflammation - it is the enemy and
the cause of the joint destruction and disability of those who suffer
Another term for AS is Brittle Spine Disease. In a
normal spine, the vertebra are separated by cushion-like discs. This
allows the back to be supple and flexible, and it acts as a shock
absorber for each step that we take, and each fall we are subjected to.
is more common than Rheumatoid Arthritis, yet it is not always
diagnosed appropriately until serious damage has already occurred. It is
likely that you know someone with AS and probably don't know it.
AS Degeneration and emergency protocols
AS becomes advanced, the vertebrae become fused together and the spine
can become one large bone instead of many small bones cushioned by
discs. On an X-ray the spine appears to look just like bamboo - hence
the term Bamboo Spine. Not only is the flexibility gone at this point in
the disease, but so is the cushion that many bones together separated
by squishy discs would normally have. A slight fall or minor car
accident that might not otherwise injure a healthy person can be
devastating to an AS patient.
Additionally, because of the
fusion and kyphosis (loss of posture and fusion into an unnatural
hunched over position) many AS patients suffer, normal protocols in an
emergency situation can actually cause devastating damage instead of
help the patient as they are intended. When AS has attacked the ribs,
breathing may need to be assisted. When it has affected the neck or jaw,
basic airway assistance may be difficult, even impossible without
incurring serious, even potentially fatal injuries.
The AS Emergency Primer
Spondylitis Association of America has a series of 3 videos that teach
AS patients and emergency medical personnel such as First Responders and
EMT's how to properly care for AS patients in an emergency. This is
vital information that every AS patient and their family members, as
well as all emergency medical personnel in your area should be familiar
I'm a First Responder and an autoimmune Health Activist, and have never
received any training re: AS in patients. I was very glad to find these
videos and am eager to pass them along.
The month of September is National Preparedness Month
and is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen
Corps and the Ad Council. NPM is designed to encourage Americans to take
simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and
communities. Please visit the link above to learn about how you can
participate in this year's activities.