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Hardware removal

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had L-4 & 5 spinal fusion and cystectomy for a small cyst at the base of my spine in May 08. I thought I was healing up well. However, I am still having a lot of pain; issues with left leg numbness and tingling as well as some inflamation and a lump at the surgical site. Recently the subject of hardware removal came up from my Dr. How common and successful is this option and what is the duration of recovery from such a procedure. I thought I needed hardware forever!??. I am terrified of the thought of another back surgery and am becoming increasingly inactive, anxious and depressed which results in insomnia. Looking for good advice and encouragement.


  • I also developed a hard lump under my incision from scar tissue, and I was pretty tender around my hardware. I underwent a session of dry needling and it has completely gotten rid of the hard lump, and I am much less tender around the hardware. You may want to see if that would be an option for you. I am only a couple months out from my surgery, so I am not sure if this would even be an option for you, but I have been absolutely amazed at how much better I feel.

  • That's a great suggestion! Anything that might help and to avoid another surgery is worth a try.

    I have not had hardware removal but did contemplate it briefly until my guys decided I did not have a loose screw. From what I understand, they will not do it unless the fusion is strong. It involves an overnight stay and the recovery from surgery is easy compared to the original surgery. I think someone said they went back to work in a week.

    The point of the hardware is to hold the bones together until they have a chance to make a firm bond. After that, the hardware is not necessary. Most times it is not removed just because it is one more surgery that the patient doesn't need, and the hardware is designed to remain in the body. The majority of patients still have their hardware, but in some cases, it comes loose or the body has an allergic reaction to it, etc. and then the surgeon determines whether it needs to come out.

    Try not to fret over a second back surgery. I had a fusion in Jan. of 2008 and then this past January I had a second lesser surgery. It was a piece of cake. I stayed overnight, had one pain pill in the hospital and none afterward, because I didn't need anything. I came home, baked a pan of brownies, and went for a long walk. I really was so surprised at what a non-event it turned out to be.

    Try not to worry. Fear causes our muscles to tense up and then your pain will be even worse.

    How long ago was your surgery? Please keep up with your walking, even if you can just go a little way.

  • I feel your frustration and fear!

    I too am looking at hardware removal. I have tenderness from the screwheads - yes, I can feel them through the skin, and a lot of muscle aches from when the screws catch on my muscles. I notice it most when I walk and when I sit against something hard and try to move my legs (like when sitting on a recumbant bike).

    I've heard that the dr. can inject some numbing agent over the screws and if you get pain relief, then a harware removal might be for you.

    I have also heard of people having problems just having the metal in there - like Gwennie mentioned - a kind of allergy to it.

    My problems are more mechanical I think than allergy. My NS told me that about 10% of the time hardware needs to come out and in particular they seem to be young thin women that have the issues I'm having - I love him for saying that! (I've only recently lost all the weight I gained while I was so incapacitated with pre-op pain).

    You really should postpone a hardware removal until you are completely fused. That's where I'm at - waiting to be SURE my fusion is solid. If things aren't fused then they have to just pack you back up with BMP and sew you shut. At least this was what I was told by my NS on my last visit.

  • I had my surgery to remove hardware in Sept..I was fused, and it was 9 months post 2 level PLIF. I dont regret having it out. Surgery for it is a piece of cake compared to 1st one. You still have same incisions and stuff. But my surgeon tested my fusion during the hardware removal surgery to make sure it was stable. I know I still have to be careful, cause just cause it is fused doesnt mean it is finished fusing. But I am waiting to see if it helps me. You should be able to do what you were doing prior to removal, with the exception being careful of the incision and no straining.
    My surgeon told me his patients that have tested positive for the hardware removal have had good results in pain reduction. I am still waiting...Good Luck and if you want to ask any other ?, please feel free to PM me..Gwennie hit it head on. She knows what shes talking about. "Just the facts Ma'am" :D
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