Australian Consensus Statements for the Assessment and Management of Non-radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis

Steven L. Truong, Tim McEwan, Paul Bird, Irwin Lim, Nivene F. Saad, Lionel Schachna, Andrew L. Taylor, Philip C. Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The understanding of non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) has accelerated over the last decade, producing a number of practice-changing developments. Diagnosis is challenging. No diagnostic criteria exist, no single finding is diagnostic, and other causes of back pain may act as confounders. Aim: To update and expand the 2014 consensus statement on the investigation and management of non‐radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA). Methods: We created search questions based on our previous statements and four new topics then searched the MEDLINE and Cochrane databases. We assessed relevant publications by full-text review and rated their level of evidence using the GRADE system. We compiled a GRADE evidence summary then produced and voted on consensus statements. Results: We identified 5145 relevant publications, full-text reviewed 504, and included 176 in the evidence summary. We developed and voted on 22 consensus statements. All had high agreement. Diagnosis of nr-axSpA should be made by experienced clinicians, considering clinical features of spondyloarthritis, blood tests, and imaging. History and examination should also assess alternative causes of back pain and related conditions including non-specific back pain and fibromyalgia. Initial investigations should include CRP, HLA-B27, and AP pelvic radiography. Further imaging by T1 and STIR MRI of the sacroiliac joints is useful if radiography does not show definite changes. MRI provides moderate-to-high sensitivity and high specificity for nr-axSpA. Acute signs of sacroiliitis on MRI are not specific and have been observed in the absence of spondyloarthritis. Initial management should involve NSAIDs and a regular exercise program, while TNF and IL-17 inhibitors can be used for high disease activity unresponsive to these interventions. Goals of treatment include improving the frequent impairment of social and occupational function that occurs in nr-axSpA. Conclusions: We provide 22 evidence-based consensus statements to provide practical guidance in the assessment and management of nr-axSpA.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRheumatology and therapy
Issue number1
Early online date28 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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