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Broken titanium rod on spine

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:29 AM in Chronic Pain
I had spinal surgery 3 years ago. Two titanium rods and 12 screws. I have been experience pain now for 6 months and just had it checked. I was told that a nut was off and the rod had broken and allowed the disk to deteriorate. Has anyone ever had a broken rod that has caused problems.
I was told that the rod may have broken because of movement.
Seems wrong for that to happen.


  • Sorry to hear about this unwelcome development. How did they discover the rod was broken? MRI, CAT? My pedicle (thoracic) screws don't have nuts, but it feels like there are a few hundred moving around my chest and back and they have very sharp edges!

    Hope someone with some knowledge answers you. Good luck.
  • I really don't know what to say,i do know this though its not your fault by all means.I do know that i would be checking the liability of those rods, There not breakable, thats what they told me because that was my main concern so they told me they were made out of a non-breakable metal Titanuim .I would be seeking a lawyer not against your doctor by all means he was told what we were told.Something don't add up here because if you were to take the sciencetific route here ,the area ,divided ,by the size,then times it by position,it equals faulty manufacturer. Plus your spine would be looking like a train wreck .I have 6 bolts 3 plates and 2 rods in at L-4,L-5,S-1, I hate them badly they cause me nothing but pain and agony,they hurt when the weather gets cold the way my posture is .I actualy feel them one pushes through the skin,i get deep bone pain,every disc above and below has to pay for it in the long run,there all crushing and baring the weight now PS Please Seek a lawyer for the warranty rights remember its not the doc its the maker. Thanks hope i was helpful.
  • No matter how great a product is, if it is installed incorrectly, it is not the fault of the design or manufacture of the product.

    Are you sure that you were told the rod broke or could it be that where the screw pulled away from the bone, the rod broke loose? I know there have been problems when the surgeon does not get the holes drilled and properly placed. Just like when you put a screw in wood, if you drill too close to the edge, through torque, it can pull away from the wood and cause the wood to splinter.

    I've never heard or read any studies indicating a rod had broken. Was the person looking at your imaging surprised by this??
  • I find it hard to believe you broke a rod, but if it was already cracked before installed, maybe. It makes more sense that you broke a pedicle screw. I would think your back would break before a titanium rod breaks, but then again I'm not a Doctor. I became friends with all my Phys therapists and have heard alot of problems from them, but not a broken rod.

    I had problems with my hardware since day one after my 11hr surgery. I had my hardware removed and it feels so much better without it. Not too very long after my surgery, they came out with smaller pedicle screws. 2 other males in my hydro-therapy class broke screws trying to do too much too soon.

    Now my Spine Doc goes in thru the side instead of thru all the muscle. Not much help now.

    I would go back and see your spine Dr if you have not already and find out exactly what is wrong and go from there. I do not trust many other Drs because I was told I had a normal spine after my first MRI and as soon as my spine Doc saw my MRI he pointed out a tear and a herniated disc and a strange spot that he had never seen before that looked looked like fluid to him setting in a puddle over my nerves going down to my legs.

    Good luck
  • rods are titanium rods and very very stong. i have never heard of broken rod. they are made to last and not break. screws are different. they can come loose or break. if this happened, x-ray will show it and also your bone grows around the rods and bone growth will also show up. that's why they put bone graphs around the rods and screws. see dr and get it fixed immediately. will screw up iyour back if you don't get it fixed asap
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • Broken Rod


    My husband when he was 16 had rods put in and a fusion and I don't now what else. Well in 1998 it was discovered through x-ray that one of his hooks on his rod had came loose. The doc told him he could have surgery but couldn't grant that he would feel better, so my husband decided not to have the surgery. Now it is 2009 and he is having problems again, we are in the process of having him see a spine orthopedic surgeon to have his back checked out. please feel free to pm my husband at shawman.

  • I was reading on here about how alot of people don't think it's possible to break a titanium rod... But it happened to me. I had a spinal fusion of the thoracic area done when I was 15. I am 23 now. I was having pain before my surgery, and my left side was starting to go numb (I have scoliosis). I had the 9 hour surgery done, they went in through small incisions in my side. They inserted a titanium rod and 4 screw to hold it in place.

    After sugery, the pain was lessened dramatically. But when I was 19, I had a baby, and afterwards, my back began hurting worse. I had an XRay done, and the ER doc came back holding my results with a puzzled look. He asked me if I had one or two rods inserted. I said one. Four screws. He said, "Well, this is hard to believe, but it looks like your rod has broke". Sure enough, there it was in black and white, a clean break right through the middle. I later went to see the surgeon who performed the procedure. He said that it probably happened because of weight gain and told me to lose weight to reduce pain (I was 230 then). I lost 70 pounds and the pain is less severe, but it still hurts really bad. It definetly limits what I can do. BUT-- I heard the same thing, the rod will NEVER break. I am going in a few days to have some MRIs done and to meet with a neurosurgeon to see about helping with my pain. I saw this post because I was looking for info on whether it's dangerous or not to have an MRI with a titanium rod. Anyway I hope this helps, and yes, I saw the X Ray and it made me sick lol... I had the bone graph around it to help it heal, too... my doc said the bone should be stable and all, it had to have broken after I was 18 because I had an X ray then and it was fine.
  • I had a decompression surgery 5 years ago - old shorter rods removed and new rods now 8 levels inserted .
    I broke a rod about 1/2 inch below a screw a month ago.
    I heard a loud POP and have had pain since.
    The break clearly shows on an x-ray and now I need a new rod and more surgery.
    I think the maker of the rod should be sued as this is a terrible surgery as well as risky. Any suggestions?
  • i checked a site that i googled, "titanium rods for back surgery", and i got a site named "hardware for surgery" from the search. on the site it said the rate of rod breakage has dropped from 10% to 0.01% due to the advancement of metal development. i have no idea what caused rods to break, faulty material, improper surgery...
    but it is still very hard to break them especially now a days. they use titanium in planes and the shuttle i believe. i believe titanium is one of the hardest metals we have. there must have been tremendous stress if they broke. in my opinion, i think it is from faulty surgery if they break
    just my opinion
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • I recently had surgery and was told that my rods could stay in forever by my Italian-based Neurosurgeon. "we never remove them" he said. When I returned to Australia my surgeon told me that the rods can break in 10% of cases like mine and that I should have them removed after 6-9 months post-op. I had 6 posterior pedicle scews and rods from t12-L3 with no bone graft. So, yes I guess they can break but I also read that metal science is improving and this equipment is getting more reliable. I'm sure you have been back to your surgeon by now and are recovering from the repair.
    More info for the pile!
  • that after 9-10 months of my fusion that my NS will go in and remove the hardware.

    In regards to the rods breaking - the xray shows what it shows!

    Good luck!
  • I think the most important thing is to find out what is causing your pain - is it the broken rod, is it a "floating" screw, is there a non-union or failure to fuse, is it an adjacent disc that is causing the pain, etc. If I were you, I would find a surgeon experienced in revisions, that is willing to assess the cause of the pain first instead of just going in an operating becuase there is broken hardware and "lets see what we find". What if you had everything taken out, replaced, and turns out the level above was causing the pain? That would bite. Hardware failures are common, and don't often mean failure to fuse, or cause of pain; in fact I heard the opposite - if you don't fuse your hardware will break (the old hardware wasn't meant to support a spine the way a solidly fused bone would). So - ask your surgeon for a plan, once you have everything figured out get a second opinion (and maybe a third). It sounds worthwhile to get a myelogram to look for nerve root impingement, discogram to check integrity of discs above and below prior surgery and to see if they are causing pain, and some selective nerve root (where the screw is loose) blocks and facet blocks with careful diary of what gives you relief. A pain diary would also be useful. Get fixed first, then worry about "blame" if you are the "blaming" type. (I know in the consent I signed it said hardware may break, I may become paralyzed...yada yada..).and Good Luck!
  • My son had to have back surgery 2 years ago due to scoliosis, he has 2 titanium rods and 12 screws, ever since the surgery, he staggers when he walks, is this normal? Has anyone else out there ever had this kind of a problem?
  • I got on this site checking about the safety of MRI with titanium rods and screws also, haven't found anything out yet, did you ever find anything out about this and if so, did you get an MRI with titanium rods? My son is 16 and has 2 titanium rods and 12 titanium screws due to surgery from scoliosis 2 years ago, he has been staggering when he walks ever since the surgery, so, I took him to see a neuro doctor and he sent him for an MRI, this kind of scares me even tho they say it is ok... his appointment is in 4 days, I have to make my mind up before then, so, any info would help...thanks a bunch!
  • First of all to the person who's concerned about having titanium hardware and an upcoming MRI, it's fine. I've had many CAT's and MRI's since I've had my hardware placed inside me. It's perfectly safe. The first time I had a MRI afterwards I asked about the magnetic field pulling out my hardware since I know that it does pull on metal. I was told that titanium is different and very safe. Don't worry and go ahead with the tests.
    As for hardware problems, I've never had any broken rods (so far) but I did have to have my hardware replaced and rods and braces inserted instead. I had what is called a 'BAC PAK' (spelled correctly?) and it had completely come out of my spine. My spine was no longer connected and I could feel it. I was really, really wobbly and felt like my torso was not connectced to my lower half. I was right!
    This happened in the very first month following my 2nd surgery and was installed. My surgeon would take x-rays every week to see how it was coming along and I would look at my pictures and say "Isn't that coming out?". Every single time I was told "no" and "it's perfect". Hogwash! Finally one year later after an intense search for the best surgeon I could find I was told that it had indeed come out and that was why I was in such intense pain and why I was so wobbly. My surgeon had almost paralyzed me from the waist down.
    My new surgeon fixed it to the best of his and many other surgeons capabilities but I was left with a lot of damage because of this.
    I highly recommend that you seek a 2nd opinion and make sure that you have the very best surgeon that is available, even if you have to travel to another city as I did. Believe me, it's worth it. I realize it may be a hardship but please do what you can. What happens next may have a profound impact on your future.
    As to those who say that titanium can't break, I firmly believe that anything can break. Never say never. I wish you the best of luck and hope things work out for you.
  • I thought my problem was bad. I hope u get help for that!
    That's scarry! And I can only imagine what that must feel like.
    Keep us all updated on ur progress.
    That's very interesting( the broken rods) and hope you find relief and get the help you need.
    We most certainly all hurt and for all kinds of reasons.
    But we all live in the family of pain. So welcome to the family that hurts together and
    though each of us have our individual ordeals we still share the pain.

    Good luck to you!!!!!

  • My entire back has been fused over my life... I have bone graphs on some portions, then from roughly the middle down to my hips i have rods. I have 6 total rods and not sure how many screws.

    Some how in 2007 i was able to break one of the rods. I never heard a loud pop or anything of that nature, or atleast i dont remember hearing one. I started feeling some pinching in my back and went to the dr and come to find out when i laid down and my muscles relaxed the rod would spread where it had broken, so when i stood up or sat up, the rod would close that gap and pinch the tissue, causing the pain.

    My doctor who i have had since i was born which is almost 24 years, said that they rarely ever break and probably hadnt seen 10 break in his entire career.
  • Hi,
    I had posterior cervical spine fusion c1 to c6 with titanium plates and rods 6 years ago.
    Xray showed rods are completely broken and screws are loosed.
    My problem is that of pain/numbness/tingling.
    Don't know yet if a revision surgery will have to be done to remove broken hardware.
    Has anyone had their hardware removed because they are broken and what are the consequences if they are not removed.
    I need help as well.
  • Hi Fulhope,
    I wish I had the answer for you, but I have read of one or two other Spine Health members who have had this issue and it seems I remember it turned out well for them. If no one sees your question, start a new thread. In the subject line, clearly state your topic so that more members and readers see your question. Hopefully, you'll get an answer from someone then.
    Sorry you're going through this.
  • darlene - I think if you posted a new thread with your question about your son, your post would be seen by more :)
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • I have had a rod break before, it hurt for a while, but i guess after a while my body accepted it and it stopped hurting. It only hurt mostly when i would lay down and my back/rods would relax and the space would open up between both ends of the broken rod, so when i would stand up i could feel a pinching feeling back there.

    I am not sure if your spinal issues are from birth or from an accident of some sorts. My issues are from birth, and from what my doctor says which i have had him since 1986 when i was a year old, i am his only patient with what i have (its rare, and i dont even know the name of it) but it started off with a fusion of my upper back/neck and as i got older more had to get fused. But in 2005, they removed the 2 rods they put in 2000 b/c the lower part of my back had started to curve under the pressure since the upper part wouldnt move, so they took out the 2 rods and put in 6 if that wasnt done then my back would have curved the point of breaking.

    If all your rods are broken, and your back is still curving then you need to get it looked at and revised or you will regret it one day. If only one rod is broken and your fusion is still intact then your okay i guess. They removed the broken rod in my back and all the screws assocaited with it, but since my fusion was intact they didnt have to replace it. Which is good since the surgery to put all of it in was over 12 hours long. Another issue is, do you have the pinching feeling in your back which is essentailly tissue being pinched and killed. When they opened up my back to remove the broken section they removed some dead tissue.

    If you have any questions or want to chat, i am open to it.
  • i have two broken titanium rods in my lower back .i had my first sugery when i turn 21 after three months my rods started to feel like they was rubbin together so i got the checked and they was like two inches apart so i wait another two to three months to hvae my second sugery and after this on i was like 22 and these rods held like four months morte long than the first two rods and end up breakin again i am now 27 and still hurtin and still walkin pretty good
  • I had spinal fusion just over 3 years ago....T6 through T12. I have 12 screws and two rods, 3 cages and had bone grafted. I've been reading the posts above about problems with hardware after surgery.

    My neurosurgeon told me I could never to things like water aerobics, ride a bicycle, swim...anything that would twist my back. I can never lift anything over 20 lbs. He said I had to be very careful because two of the screws are close to my aorta.

    I can feel the rods and screws when the weather changes, when I fly...times like that.

    I never want to go through a surgery like that again. I am 62 years old and still very active...as active as I can be.

    I am very overweight, however, and that scares me. I had already decided to join the Y and use the a couple of machines like the treadmill and eliptocal (sp?). And, I'm going to a weight loss clinic in a few months (my gyno is opening one in four months).

    I thought something I post might help someone else. BTW, I had six herniated discs in my thoracic spine and it took two years to be diagnosed. Sounds ridiculous, but it's true. No doctor ever did an MRI of my thoracic spins until 3 weeks before my surgery. My neurosurgeon said i would have been paralyzed had I not had surgery soon. He kept saying "time is of the essence."

    I never had pain, just went numb constantly on my left side, my left leg started dragging and wouldn't turn when I wanted it to and I would fall going up stairs because my left leg wouldn't lift, even though I thought it was.

    Good luck to all of you.
  • I recently had a Myelogram, which is where they inject some dye into your spinal canal and take a bunch of x-rays to diagram the blood flow through your spinal cord. They discovered that one of my rods was not only broken, but that the broken ends were separated with about an inch between them.
    I uploaded my x-ray as my profile pic, but you may or may not be able to see it.
  • 2009 had two titatium rods in middle part of back. rods broke in 2011. This is the part of back that i have limited movements. I also have two rods in lower back since 2004 and no problems and can touch my ankles.Dr. ask me what was i doing, isaid just walking
  • Titanium can definitely break. I had a pedicle screw break from a L3-L5 fusion that I had done in May '10. I just had it revised in October. When they opened me up, I guess the screw had broken off into my bone and they had to dig a looong time to get it out (surgeon's words). Before I had the revision I had been experiencing more pain in my back plus additional tingling and numbness going down my legs. Part of the screw was actually infringing on one of my nerves, causing it to fire off every time the surgeons went near it. The numbness and tingling isn't as bad anymore. The pain is still there, but that's because I'm relatively new out of surgery
  • Oh yes, rods can break. It is due to a phenomenon called metal fatigue. Every time you bend a piece of metal, no matter how far, it gets a little bit weaker. A good example of metal fatigue is when you repeatedly bend the tab on an aluminum can back and forth. Eventually, it breaks off.

    Both of the stainless steel rods in my back broke because my spine never fused. One of the broken ends had actually drifted into my spinal canal. I had the rods removed three weeks ago and replaced with the "legacy" hardware.

    For the last dozen years, I have suffered from chronic back pain and ate up to 4 lortabs a day. Before I had surgery, I could not even imagine what life was like without pain. In my lifetime, I have eaten approximately 12,000 pain pills.

    I am proud to say that I have not taken a single pain pill in the last 5 days. I cannot believe how much better life is now that I am no longer in pain.
  • oh wow JS!! wonderful that you are doing so well !!! :)

    was the pain from the broken rods?
    L1 - S2 "gone" useless in 1 way or another. DDD. RA. Bone Spurs. Tons of nerve damage/issues. Stenosis. Both knees replaced. 50 yrs old. I had a great fall (hence my user name) at age 41 and it has been a domino effect every since.
  • 1997 motorcycle accident left me with herniated disks to C6-7, then to lumbar area down to sacrum. Torn sacro-illiac joint
    2001 Cervical spine surgery.
    2007 Ruptured herniated disks from L3 to S1. 1st surgery in April, which collapsed within 3 days of being home. 2nd surgery on Memorial day weekend same year. Rods, nuts, bolts, screws collapsed less than a month later & I was refused service by orthopedic surgeon.
    I went back to work walking around hospitals teaching in severe pain without pain meds. I had them, I didn't work on them.
    Reinsured in 2009, diagnosed Oct 2009 with collapsed rods, nuts & screw attached to spinal nerve. I continued to work until I no longer could & then had surgery July 1, 2010. Physician said the last surgeon had no idea what he was doing as the titanium was dangling and the one screw attached itself to the nerve & it was impossible to remove the screw for fear of paralyzing me.

    It took me almost a year to walk again without a cane. I still have nerve damage which causes severe pain at times from my vagina down to both feet.

    This last surgery I had titanium rods placed to support my lumbar spine, down to my sacrum with titanium screw still in place on nerve. Titanium rods from pelvic bone to pelvic bone to support the torn sacro-illiac joint.

    I am unable to stand in one place for a long time, sit straight up, walk long distances or lie down without pain. My pain level is the least at a 7, most times a 10. But I'm a survivor.

    How I relieve pain: Do not laugh ok laugh......

    I am a biker, motorcycles got me in this mess, and they relieve my tension, pain & stress. I still ride even in excruciating pain, not because it's my only transportation, but it's because I still can ride it. I ride to forget the pain.

    I meditate as well. I just focus on something & try to relax.
    I take very hot showers to soothe the pain.
    I wrap myself at bedtime in an electric blanket to sleep. I have a Sealy blanket that heats up only when touching the body, so it keeps my whole body warm & relaxes the pain.
    Here in CA we have medical MJ & I made a tincture to put under my tongue to work right away. It relieves the pain quickly.

    I have asked my physician who did the 2nd surgery who the manufacturer of the equipment that collapsed causing the damage & they refuse to respond. And no lawyers would take this as a lawsuit.

    A lawsuit won't get rid of the pain, but the last surgery made it possible for me to walk, ride, live a decent life, but unable to work again. But am not really complaining because I am still alive.

    I never settled for the pain & kept hounding physicians until the problem was fixed. All titanium is still in place supporting my spinal column. I was never promised any miracles or to be pain free again. I WAS promised a stable spinal column & that's what I now have. I can handle that.
  • i also have had an mri with titanium rods and no sweat. in fact they injected a dye into me so it could be better seen on the mri. never had a problem. i have rods from L5-L3. the last one this year they went into my side for my fusion.
    may the rods be with you obie ben wobie
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
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