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Hardware Removal Scheduled

saltzworksssaltzworks Posts: 1,031
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery

I thought I was just getting back with my NS to talk about finally removing my hardware. I had to leave them a message. Next thing I know, I 'm getting a call -they've scheduled me for January 6th- if that works for me.

I know I need it out. I just didn't plan on it being done so quickly. I thought I had a few months to get it all set up. My NS has never been one to move quickly on anything.

Please - if you've had your hardware out already - please remind me how long your recovery took. I need your stories again!

I want to return to work in a week. I'm worried that I might be overly optimistic. I only have 43 hours of sick time. I can use some vacation if I get in a bind, but I'm so sick and tired of using vacation for surgeries!

Reasons I think I can return to work after a week off:

1- My NS uses absorbable stitches, so I won't have to worry about stitches or staples rubbing around on my work clothes. I also can shower with a plastic patch covering the site.

2- My back is fused already, so although I plan on practicing no BLT (bending lifting twisting) I still think I can work.

3- I also really hate taking pain medications, and I don't really need them terribly either, otherwise if I was still medicating, my return might be delayed - not being able to drive on meds and all that.

I've got to just take a deep breath - I know I need this. Almost daily my back catches on a screw and I have to stand absolutely still until it releases. Any muscle movement in my back at all seizes the whole thing up. It's getting harder and harder to work out - the benches, from workout benches to seated stationary bikes - they all rub on those screws and give me more muscles spasms. But it's an 8" incision. It's overnight in the hospital...

and... It's anesthesia again - on my last surgery they told me to consider myself allergic to it and to inform the dr.'s on all future surgeries.


  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I haven't had mine removed...but when I was looking into it about 8 months ago I got many responses (on another board before I knew about this one) that the hardware removal was relatively easy compared to a fusion - but they still go through muscle so there can be pain. You may be able to accelerate your recovery if you allow yourself to use pain meds in the first few days. Many people said that for sedentary jobs they were able to return in 1-2 weeks after the procedure. For those with more medium to heavy jobs (that require extensive standing, driving, etc) it seemed like more along the lines of 2-3 weeks off of work at least.

    How long ago was your fusion?

    The reason I ask is that I'm fused L4-S1 with hardware and they now need to fuse L3-L4. But if everything else looks okay (after 17 years of the hardware) they may remove all hardware and just use hardware on the new level alone! Some of my current symptoms way low are partially due to hardware (my 17 yr old hardware is stainless steel and bulky).
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Thanks for the input -

    My scar is 8", I am fused S1-L4 (2 levels) - It sounds like we have the same fusion. I also am looking at having to have L4-L3 fused sometime in the future. We are leaving it alone for now.

    I take pain medication when I have to, but I usually end up throwing up SO much that it's not worth it. The only time it is okay is if the dose me up with major amounts of anti-nausea stuff with it. MAYBE though - maybe it's the anesthesia thing more than the pain medication - something to consider now that I know I'm allergic to anesthesia.
  • They remove hardware after a fusion?
    I just assumed it stayed there permanently unless they happened to go back in for another level.

    I didnt' think they went in on purpose JUST to remove hardware. I guess I have to keep researching.
  • they are cutting through the large back muscles again so dont push yourself too fast. I think going back to work after a week is doing just that.
    Just be careful, you dont want to end up doing more harm then good.


  • Salt,

    I am going to have to agree with Christina, one week does not seem like enough time to recover. I truly hope you can give yourself more time to heal before returning to work.

    I had L5/S1 hardware removed one week ago (almost 10 months post-op fusion). My surgeon uses the most current MIS techniques and removed the hardware essentially the same way he put it in. The unbelieveable thing (at least for me) is that the removal was far worse than putting it in from a pain perspective. I felt like someone had beaten me up internally and externally I had (still do) some very nasty bruising around my incisions. Unfortunately, I am not a part of the group of folks that say that it was a "cake walk compared to fusion".

    I think it is way to early to know the true outcome but already there are some very good signs that this was the right choice for me. After the fusion I had difficulty walking (as if something was impeding my ability to walk), could not sit for more than an hour and horrible muscle spasms - as well as nerve pain. Now just a week after removal I no longer walk with a limp and have a more even gait, and I have sore, angry muscles but not these intense muscle spasms I experienced previously. The nerve pain continues but it is not as bad.

    Now at a week post-op with only one level of removal would I be in any shape to return to work - no I simply would not be. But that is just me. I think there are too many factors involved to give someone a specific healing timeline. What technique your surgeon uses, how well the procedure goes (I think of another poster who recently had her hardware removed and her thecal sac tore :( how fast your body heals, etc...

    I hope you can find a way to get more time for yourself to recover and I hope you find relief once you are healed. My best wishes for a successful surgery.
  • I KNEW I needed to ask you all your opinions! Christina and JaneTatum - One more reason this board is so awesome!

    The nurse was all 'Oh, yeah. No problem'

    I guess after all the complications after my fusion surgery I think I should expect more of the same. Then if it all goes smooth and it's a piece of cake I'll just be terribly grateful vs. angry and frustrated when things don't go as planned.

    I do have 2 weeks of vacation on top of the sick time, and if all else fails, I can always go back on FMLA leave. Hate to lose out on pay again though!

    DNice - my NS told me that in about 10% of the cases he finds that the hardware needs to be removed. And (I love him for this!) he said that mostly it is in young thin women. Now I'm not so young anymore and I've only recently become thin again - so it was a real boost to my ego to hear that! Kind of eases the pain of having to have another surgery!

    I think it has to do with the way we walk - maybe ;) LOL!!

    SanFran - I'm so glad you posted! I really needed to hear this. My NS did tell me that after opening me back up he grabs the screws and yanks around on them to test the fusion. If the fusion holds, then he takes out the hardware. If things crack - well, he packs me back up with BMP and we start all over again. Sounds pretty brutal. But then what surgery is NOT brutal??

    Crap. I really was hoping to not have this be such a big deal. I'm so tired of surgeries.
  • Did you have a bone graft from your hip? i did
    when they took the hardware out the bone crumbled,
    so DR cleaned it up and next day went home week later workmens ins said i was high risk the wont insure me anymore.at that time i was only 38 years old.i was with out a job as a mechanic,they have to pay me till i die but i dont get raises,
    dont let them rush!! Rick in ncpa
  • Talk about complications!!!!

    I did not have bone from my hip - but I did have my own bone from the laminectomy part along with BMP bullets.

    I can't say that I'm not worried - and it's not just the surprise of a non-fusion, it's also this anesthesia thing.

    I sometimes feel like I've been playing Russion Roulette - and with each surgery the stakes get higher.
  • I had no idea that people needed their hardware removed! Being a young thin female I wonder if I'll need mine out one day.

    Sorry I don't have much advice to give but I am glad you posted the question here. It's better to take too much time off and then come back early, then to not have enough time off to heal. I hope for your sake it goes quickly.
  • my hardward at about 9-10 months or once the fusion was solid. I started to fuse by the 3rd week -per my xray. I ask my PT is this was normal and he said anymore yes, removing the hardware was becoming more common and that he deals with a lot of patience who have hardware removed once the fusion is solid. He said that it will minimize problems in the future regarding the hardware.

    The cold weather reeks havoc on my back. A couple of days ago the pain was so bad I could not get relief - it felt like the hardware was just cracking my bones. I know that may sound silly but that is the only way to describe it. I can't get warm- its like I am cold down to my bones!! brrrrrrrrrrrr

    sorry saltworks that I dont have advice for you- please keep us posted on your experience. I will be looking forwar to them. Please take all the time you need to heal before you go back to work- I am sure you will! ;o)

  • youre surgeon said the same thing mine did. He told me he was going to remove the hardware to see if that was contributing to the pain. That he'd go in and test the fusion by picking me up by the rods and dropping me on the table to see if they held. Mine didnt on one side. They also found a bone shelf growing into the spinal canal. All my hardware was loose. They ended up removing the shelf, repacking the fusion and putting in larger rods and screws.

    I pray that you just get away with the hardware removal. All I know is that it was just as bad this time as it was the first time. I'm 6 weeks out from my surgery and still have alot of pain, wearing my brace and on morphine and percocet and muscle relaxers.

    My mom always told me to be ready for the worst just in case.

    I'll be thinking about you and if you need to talk or anything, I'm here =)


  • Noseover - I have to admit that I've wondered if any kind of 'wiggle when you walk' is a contributing factor. But I'm not sure - I'm not really the wiggle type. Maybe our muscles have less padding to smooth the movement over the hardware.

    Leo - I will for sure keep posting - this site has been a blessing! Oh- and the COLD!! I sure felt it this morning, horrible ache as I started driving this morning in this 3 degree weather.

    Christina - I did couch my words earlier and tried to make it not as graphic as my NS described it - but you are right. My NS said he shakes it and tries to get it to break almost to test the fusion. Makes me sick to my stomach to think of it. That sucks on your non-fusion, really really sucks. I hope your kids are helping you out a lot (they are just a few years younger than my first 2)
  • I had hardware removed in Sept. I would give yourself a couple weeks. Just because they cut the same muscles again and it takes time for them to adjust and heal. Good Luck. I will be waiting to see how you come out. Love, Robin
  • Yeh, I was thinking that, but hoping for less ;)
  • good thread going here. I will try to tell my story quickly.
    Had fusion last year at L5-S1. Intialy healed well and was getting moble again. After six months pains atarted up again in lower back. It was like a dull pushing, aching pain. I'm very tall and skinny, and it felt like the screws were comining through my skin. after trying all the conservative methods again I asked my surgeron if she'd remove the hardware. She was reluctant but agree.
    Six weeks again had it removed. Was informed afer the surgery that while pulling and jiggling at the screw to release it from the scare tissue that had attached to the dural sac, she tore the dural sac. Says she patched it up with a special seal. I was in the hospital for 8 days to deal with the horrible headaches.
    5 weeks later I feel while squating down to pick something up. Long story short. Spinal canal ripped,blood clots in spinal colum.
    home again. tired now.
  • i already had two cervical neck surgeries. the first one failed and the revision was with bone graft (donor) titanium plate and screws. this was at the c 4/5 5/6 and the third surgery was a peek cage at the c 3/4. when he went in to do that level i asked if he could remove it and he said that unless it was causing a problem not to, because the scar tissue can adhear to the vertabrae rather than the plate and could cause more problems. dose this sound logical?
  • So tired - holy #!@# you are scaring the pants off me! Please, if you can, elaborate. I want the WHOLE story, not a short version - please - like I mentioned earlier, at times I feel I am playing Russian Roulette with all these surgeries and your story kind of brings that point even closer to home. Have you had any relief of pain? Can you tell any difference now with the hardware gone yet? I KNOW those spinal leak headaches - you had 8 days of it (and probably more when you tore again)!?!??!

    Cheryl - after SoTired's story I believe! My NS did say that it's rare when he will agree to a hardware removal. That's why I was so surprised to feel like it all got streamlined when I finally called back and admitted that I thought I needed to go through with it.

    You know this site is SUCH a lifesaver! The collective experiences and willingness of people to share their stories...

    Let's just say that I would be one ignorant sorry sack of nothing if I did not have this site to go to to ask my questions and meet other spineys. Thank you all for you continued support, opinions and help!
  • Cause we're also learning off of you as well, different ppl, different stories and we all know that dealing with our spines feels like a never ending drama. It's always nice to feel like you have somewhere to go and talk no matter what.


    Take Care,
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