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Clinical management

Improving the recognition of axial spondyloarthritis


A qualitative study involving 28 semi-structured interviews, explored patient and healthcare professional (HCP) perspectives on barriers and facilitators to the diagnosis of axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA).


Barriers to diagnosis of axSpA included a lack of awareness, unclear referral pathways, patient stoicism and tendency to ignore symptoms (particularly if a previous consultation had not been perceived to be helpful) and problems with patient/ HCP communication (difficulty articulating differences between pain and stiffness and a perceived reduced receptivity to concerns following repeated consultations with the same HCP).


Facilitators of diagnosis included patient advocacy, increased awareness of axSpA and improvements to healthcare practice and communication.


WiseGP Actions


  • In a clinical meeting, consider a focus on back pain, including differential diagnoses such as axSpA. Do you have a patient whose story you could retrace to discuss their diagnostic journey? There are further educational resources you can access online, including podcasts, a diagnostic toolkit and a course (links below).

  • Here is a useful resource you could also share with patients via social media to also raise awareness.


Read more about the research informing this GEM:

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