✓ Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rheumatic disease characterized by consolidation of the articulating surfaces and inflammation of the vertebral column. Because of its associated spine stiffness and secondary osteoporosis, patients with this disorder are at increased risk of vertebral fractures. Ankylosing spondylitis presents a significant challenge to spine surgeons because of its complex effects on the spine, extraarticular organ manifestations, and potential neurological and functional sequelae. Traumatic thoracic and lumbar spine injuries in this patient population may be associated with injury to the aorta either due to direct mechanical trauma or to blunt forces associated with the spine fracture. This complication and association is thought to be the result of pathophysiological changes that cause the aorta to become firmly adherent to the anterior longitudinal ligament.
The authors present a case of AS in a patient with a thoracic spine fracture and in whom a delayed thoracic aortic pseudoaneurysm ruptured. To the best of the authors' knowledge, only five cases of this complex condition have been reported since 1980. Recognition of the potential for aortic injury in patients with AS should prompt early investigation of the aorta in cases involving numerous fractures and assist in surgical planning to avoid this lethal injury.