Thursday, September 9, 2010

Anklylosing Spondylitis and Emergency Responders - Special Protocols

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing 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 from it.

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.


AS 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

When 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

The 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 with:




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.

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