Spondylitis (or spondyloarthritis) is a systemic rheumatic disease that primarily affects the spine. An estimated 2.7 million adults in the United States have spondylitis. As the disease progresses, the vertebrae of the spine can become fused, in moderate to severe cases, into a single, solid bone incapable of flexion, extension, or lateral movement. The fused spine of a person with spondylitis is inherently fragile and, as a result, susceptible to fracture with resultant spinal cord injury. It has been reported in the medical literature that there is an estimated 35 percent to 58 percent mortality rate in people with spondylitis following a spinal fracture. Additionally, spondylitis patients are at high risk for serious spinal injury and increased neurological complications even in the event of minor trauma.
Emergency first responders called to care for a patient with spondylitis must remember that their patient's spine may be inflexible and traditional protocols for emergency care may do more harm than good.
The Spondylitis Association of America developed “Ankylosing Spondylitis: Managing Patients in an Emergency Setting, A Primer for First Responders” in cooperation with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). This program provides the education and training to ensure that all emergency first responders—including emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and fire and police safety personnel—have an opportunity to learn the proper and safe techniques in the care and handling of individuals with spondylitis.
This training is not intended to be diagnostic, but rather to prepare an emergency medical technician to do the right thing to prevent further injury once a person has self-reported, in some way, that he or she has spondylitis.
Since the fused spine of a spondylitis patient can be extremely fragile and may fracture easily with even minor trauma, this program focuses on addressing emergency medical techniques that must be modified to accommodate patients with spondylitis, including:
Distribute this free training video to emergency first responders in your community!
This video provides the education and training to ensure that all emergency first responders, including emergency medical technicians, paramedics and fire and police safety personnel have an opportunity to learn the proper and safe techniques in the care and handling of individuals with spondylitis.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Action Plan to Manage Spondylitis
This program was made possible through the generous support of: The Higgins Family Charitable Foundation; The Jean and E. Floyd Kvamme Foundation; The Kautz Family Foundation; and members of the SAA.
Look for the terms “Spondylitis,” “Ankylosing Spondylitis,” “Spondyloarthritis,” and also possibly “Brittle Spine Disease” on a medical ID tag. Use these terms as red flags to not use standard spinal precautions and traditional protocols, as these may do immense harm to the patient.
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