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Logo of procrsmedFormerly medchtJournal of the Royal Society of MedicineProceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine
Proc R Soc Med. 1948 April; 41(4): 251–260.
PMCID: PMC2184390

Surgery in the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis


The pain, deformities and disabilities resulting from rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis must be treated by a team composed of physician, physical medicine expert, orthopædic surgeon, and, in certain cases, deep X-ray therapist working simultaneously.

The principle of “rest” in order to relieve pain has to be combined with methods designed to preserve and restore function. The multiple joint deformities in these cases may necessitate a long programme of reconstructive or functional treatment, which entails whole-hearted co-operation on the part of the patient in intensive post-operative exercise regime.

Procedures advocated for the upper limb include excision of the acromion process together with the subacromial bursa to allow free movement between the central tendon of the deltoid and the tendinous shoulder cuff: arthrodesis of the shoulder in cases where there is more severe joint destruction: in certain cases of elbow-joint arthritis, excision of the radial head and sub-total synovectomy may preserve joint function and avoid or delay the necessity for arthroplasty which can be carried out in two ways: (a) similar to the formal joint excision, or (b) re-shaping the lower end of the humerus and upper end of the ulna lining these surfaces with fascia. The former method is preferable in cases of rheumatoid arthritis. To overcome wrist-joint deformity and restore pronation and supination excision of the lower end of the ulna together with radiocarpal fusion in position for optimum function is advocated. Finger and toe joints may be corrected by resection of the bone ends and capsulectomy.

In the lower limbs bilateral involvement of the hip-joint is best treated by vitallium mould arthroplasty which may be carried out in four ways: (1) Routine arthroplasty; (2) Modified Whitman procedure; (3) Modified Colonna operation; and (4) The proximal shaft or intertrochanteric arthroplasty. It is essential in these operations to have knowledge of the operative technique, the use of special hip gouges and reamers, and detailed post-operative supervision.

For dorsal kyphosis of the spine, spinal osteotomy at the lumbar level provides excellent correction but is an operation demanding care and skill in its execution.

The author's remarks are based on experience gained when working with Dr. M. N. Smith-Petersen at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, U.S.A.

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