Skip to Main Content


A 46-year-old ASA III man is scheduled to have a total knee replacement. His past medical history is remarkable for severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with cervical spine involvement. He was recently diagnosed with atlanto-axial subluxation, but he has no neurological signs. He has a history of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), but it is well controlled with proton pump inhibitors. His other medications are an NSAID and low-dose glucocorticosteroid therapy.


On physical examination, he weighs 67 kg (148 lb) and is 167 cm (5 ft 6 in) tall, his BMI is 23.9 kg·m−2. Examination of his airway reveals that he has a full beard and small chin, no teeth, 3.0 cm of mouth opening, and that his neck is fixed in moderate flexion. This same surgery was previously cancelled as the patient refused to complete an awake bronchoscopic intubation. The patient now emphatically refuses to consent for awake bronchoscopic intubation.


39.2.1 What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis? What Are the Anesthetic Implications of This Illness?


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a lifelong (chronic) multisystem illness, which represents the most common form of chronic inflammatory arthritis and affects approximately 1% of adults (range 0.3%-2.1%) in the United States and Europe. Women are typically affected two to three times more often than men and the prevalence increases with age. The etiology of RA remains unknown, but it is evident that complex interaction between environmental factors (including infectious agents) and the immune system in genetically susceptible individuals plays an essential role.1 The class II major histocompatibility complex allele HLA-DR4 has been found to be a major genetic risk factor. The onset of RA is typically gradual between the age of 35 and 50, and may be of nonspecific nature.2,3 Synovial inflammation, cartilage damage, and bone erosion with subsequent destruction of joint integrity are the hallmarks of this illness. The course is characterized by symmetrical polyarthropathy and variably, considerable systemic involvement. As the disease progresses, cervical spine involvement becomes common, second only to involvement of the metatarsophalangeal joint.1


Extraarticular manifestations of RA are widespread and can affect as many as 40% of patients, 15% of whom appear to be severely affected.1,2 Many of these manifestations have a serious impact on anesthesia care. Cardiac manifestations most commonly present as pericarditis with effusion (in one-half of patients), but may also include cardiac conduction abnormality, granulomatous myocarditis, and valvular pathology. Rheumatoid vasculitis can affect almost any organ system and may produce coronary artery arteritis contributing to coronary syndrome. Pleuropulmonary pathology, which occurs more commonly in men, includes pleural disease, effusion, pleuropulmonary nodules, interstitial fibrosis, obliterative bronchiolitis, and pneumonitis. The prevalence of airflow obstruction in rheumatoid patients is remarkably high, suggesting it might be the commonest form of pulmonary involvement.4 Rheumatoid nodules and osteoporosis may develop in up to 30% of patients with RA. Neurologic manifestations may result from cervical spine subluxation and nerve entrapment ...

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Subscription Options

AccessAnesthesiology Full Site: One-Year Subscription

Connect to the full suite of AccessAnesthesiology content and resources including procedural videos, interactive self-assessment, real-life cases, 20+ textbooks, and more

$995 USD
Buy Now

Pay Per View: Timed Access to all of AccessAnesthesiology

24 Hour Subscription $34.95

Buy Now

48 Hour Subscription $54.95

Buy Now

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.