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Hardware Removal Surgery

MomofthreeboysMMomofthreeboys Posts: 73
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Went to NS today to discuss hardware block results. He is skeptical about the results. I'm really not. I know that when they did the block, my back pain improved. He was skeptical because my leg pain also improved. I tried to explain to him that was because I was laying on ice all evening but he didn't get it,lol. Oh well. He doesn't want me to get my hopes up about this surgery helping my pain much. But what else can I do? This is my one tiny ray of hope that there is one thing that may, just may improve my pain, if even just SOME! So I am going ahead with hardware removal surgery and he said he would look at the nerves of my left (the worse) leg while he was in there. I don't have a date yet. I'm already nervous, though I know this recovery will be much easier. As always any advise, insight, ect.
Mom to Tony 13, Gavin 9, and Donovan 7
Surgery 1/07/2009:
1. L3-4 decompression laminectomy and foraminotomy
2. Left complete L3-4 discectomy with decompression of L4 root.
3. Posterior lumbar interbody fusion, L3-4 with 10-mm Capstone cage and autograph.
4. Posterior spinal fusion L3-L5 with iliac bone graph and BMP
5. Legacy instrumentation, L3 to L5


  • From my reading on the subject of hardware removal, it appears it's not nearly as big a surgery as installing them.

    Good luck Cyndi, I hope you get the relief you are hoping for.
  • The hardware removal is a piece of cake. I had mine Fri and went home Sat. That was 5 weeks ago, and it really didnt hurt much at all. Recoup is same. NO BLT, but you will be able to be mobile right away. I have not felt alot of difference yet. But my fusion was last Dec, so I know I have to be paitient as it might be pain from that as well. Dont worry about the surgery, you will be fine.
  • for hardware removal. Just curious........If they do a 360 fusion would they that to go back the same way to remove the hardware- I know that sounds like a silly question - again, just curious!!

  • Recovery is same as before 6 weeks, but it really isnt like before. I dont know about the removal of 360, mine was posterior. As far as recovery, if you are working and stuff, maybe a few days, but it isnt bad at all.
  • Cyndi,
    For what it is worth I had a similar experience with my hardware block. I have nerve pain down the side and back of my legs as well as feet after I have been sitting, standing or walking for too long. I also have tremendous muscle spams and back fatigue. I was told prior to the block not to expect the nerve pain to go away but was pleasantly surprised at how much it reduced this pain. The muscle spasms in my back and nearly all the nerve flare ups were gone after the block. No one can explain this but I wonder if the proximity of the hardware to the nerves or on going inflammation is the culprit as far as the nerve flare ups are concerned. Who knows. I am currently discussing removing the hardware as well. I hope to hear how your removal goes. May it bring you relief.

    I am sorry to hear that your hardware removal has not provided you any relief. Some say that it is a 50/50 chance of being the cause of on going pain. Let's hope that as you continue to recoup that you start noticing some positive changes. I know you have some other challenging health issues to deal with and I wish you all the best and that you have some carefree, painless days ahead.
  • but I think that they put the hardware in from the back (all that is removable anyway). They put my hardware in during my first surgery and then put the bone dowels in (which I don't think can come out, since they fuse) through the front four days later. So, all the stuff that can come out should be able to come out through the back.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • For all the replies!

    I am so sorry you are not yet experiencing any relief. The doctor is not optomistic that I will, but I feel I have no other route left, other than pain managment which I'm sure I will still need. I hope in the coming months you begin to feel relief! is your doctor hopeful?

    Thank you for sharing the similar experience with me. It seems so many things happen with our bodies that they don't understand so can't explain. We become an anomaly of sorts. I don't think they like that gray area, but life and even medicine just is not black and white. I'm not expecting miracles but any reduction in my pain would be nice. I should have a date by Wednesday. I'm nervous, but feel it's a chance I have to take. I have a sensitive body and I do have an autoimmune disease(Grave's) so I don't think my body likes this metal in me.

    Shannon and Jen,
    My doc says its going to be a pretty simple surgery. smaller incision. He will remove al the hardware, patch any soft spots with artificial bone from the bone bank and inspect the nerves to my left leg. all of that will only take an hour or two, much less than my original 6 or 7 hour surgery.
    Thanks again to all,
  • Cyndi,
    I completely understand your decision to give this a try. I feel the same way. I have no desire to continue eating muscle relaxants in order to walk. I can feel the hardware grating against my skin. If my NS does not mess up the whole procedure :) then I would have to imagine that I will be better off without the daggers in my back side. My original surgery was only one hour and they removal he said would be under a half hour. I find it amazing the different time lenghts based on procedure and of course the number of levels being performed. A 6-7 hour procedure must have been horrible for you. I am looking at the first of the December if it fits into my NS's schedule. Good luck and let us know when you get a date.
  • Oh by the way, did your doc mention anything about bone cement? I am concerned about it migrating to places other than where it is intended and I wonder how they make sure it stays put. We don't need a pulmonary embolism or the stuff attaching to nerves :(
  • Removal should be minimum overhead and quick. If we are talking removing all the hardware in the rear. Like facet and pedicle screws and rods and clasps.

    For Install. They make a small incision on each side of the spine. Then find the location, drill a hole, tap the hole so that it is threaded, then install facet/pedicle screw. Repeat for all screws, then insert rods, then insert screwdriver and tighten all screw and rods. Being careful to get spine aligned as needed.

    For Removal. They make same size incision on each side of spine. Then insert screwdriver, loosen screws, and remove along with rods.

    I'm not sure why they would fill those holes with bone paste or do anything else to reverse the procedure. There may be concern about structural integrity of the bone with holes in it. Or possibly causing advanced arthritis.

    Then there is just getting used to the feeling of the hardware being removed. It may or may not be that noticeable. Shouldn't cause much downtime.
  • Z06,

    Why would you leave big gaping holes after removing the screws? As I have not had this discussion with my doc yet, I cannot imagine that they would leave the vertebra as is after removing the screws. In my mind this would leave you with a significant chance of fracture and instability.
  • My Dr said that he has strong hopes for pain releif. He checked my fusion to make sure it was strong. I dont remember if he added anything to the holes. Honsestly, I think that I just need more time to heal. You cut the muscles the same way, so everything has to heal up again. My surgery was 8 hours the first time, and almost 2 the second. But I know that because it was only 9 months after the fusion surgery, he was making sure that everything was good and strong. Time will tell. Good Luck to both you and San Fransisco both get good relief from yours.
  • 1994,

    Please post back after you see your surgeon as whether they want to fill the holes and why. I'd like to hear the answer.

    From a stability standpoint I can understand that. But I don't think everyone is in that boat. It would depend exactly where the holes were. They are not big gaping holes as you said. They are small holes that are threaded. Smaller facet screw in large bone. I fail to see how that has any structural problems. Large screws in pedicle tend to be a bit bigger screw but go deep from the images I have seen. Again I'm not sure how much structural issue there is. I would be very concerned about your other statement. Bone cement leaving the hole and attaching to nerves or muscle.

    Fracturing of the bone where the screw was just doesn't make sense. When the hardware is in. That places a lot of stress on that hole. If you were ever going to get a fracture I expect it to be with hardware. Many of the people you read about who had screws loosen up and back out. Those are the ones who were a few steps short of a fracturing around the hole the screw is in. Once you remove the hardware then those holes are no longer the anchors for hardware. They have no stress on them. If they were drilled and tapped properly then they shouldn't fracture as the hole is clean. I'd also say that another area to worry about. If the screws got any bone paste on them that was used for the fusion. Then it acts like cement or loctite on the screw. Breaking it loose might actually cause a fracture in the hole. Again, if it is removed smoothly then the hole is intact and should not fracture.

    Anyways that's my thoughts on it. I'm not a surgeon so I would love to hear an explanation of why the holes are filled if they are.
  • I had my hardware (pedicle screws and rods) removed from L5-S1 7 months after my fusion surgery. The doc did not 'fill the holes' with BMP as its not considered necessary.
    Keep positive!


    ...an old timer here and ex-moderator

  • he was using artificial bone and/or BMP. Is that the same?
  • Wouldn't be using artificial bone or BMP to fill the holes but rather to stabilize my fusion if it is not 'hard' enough. Hope I didn't cause any confusion!
  • So happy to here you are now pain free! That gives us all a piece of hope!
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