What is the role of surgery in the treatment of reactive arthritis (ReA)?

Updated: Dec 24, 2020
  • Author: Carlos J Lozada, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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No surgical therapy for ReA is recommended. However, surgical intervention may be warranted for certain ocular manifestations of the disease.

The posterior spillover of inflammatory material in the chronic iridocyclitis associated with ReA may result in persistent vitreous opacification. The cumulative effects of secondary involvement of the vitreous may result in visually disabling vitreous debris and opacification, making these eyes good candidates for vitrectomy. Although vitrectomy should be considered only after prolonged follow-up care and thorough planning, it appears to offer a definitive improvement in vision in certain cases.

Because of the intense episodes of recurrent inflammation, it is essential to render the eyes as quiet as possible before surgery by using topical, periocular, or systemic corticosteroids. At least 3 months of cell-free slit lamp examinations—6 months for younger patients and severe cases—should be documented before elective surgical intervention.

Preoperative ultrasonography is helpful in determining the degree of vitreous opacification, the thickening of the choroid, and the presence of a cyclitic membrane, which can create significant problems at surgery.

The major objective of surgery in patients with complicated uveitic cataract and vitreous opacification is to improve vision. Vitrectomy may favorably modify the dynamics of the uveitic process, though lensectomy-vitrectomy does not reduce the inflammatory reaction in all cases.

Cystoid macular edema is the major cause of decreased visual acuity after surgery; however, this is a common and serious complication of chronic uveitis even without surgery. Vitrectomy may actually reduce cystoid macular edema with gradual resolution over 1 year and an improvement in vision in some patients.

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