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Fusion Question

annewrigaannewrig Posts: 39
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I know this is probably going to sound like a dumb question, but here goes. When a surgeon does a fusion and it works do they go back in and take the hardware out or are you stuck with it for the rest of your life? Thanks!


  • Welcome and the are no "dumb questions"! Feel free to ask all questions. We are here to support you and give our advice and experiences.

    Typically the hardware from a fusion is to temporarily hold your spine in place while the bone graph grows new bone. The new bone grows around the hardware and encases it.

    With that being said, the goal is to not need any additional surgery, ie leaving the hardware.

    Occasionally there is a need to remove hardware. Additional testing will determine that need after fusion is complete.

    Hope this is helpful and good luck!
  • First, in most cases the hardware is for temporary fixation. It increases the odds of good fusion. It also helps you recovery more quickly. Good things for sure. It is typically not needed once fusion is pretty solid - which takes time.

    Second, it would take something very unusual happening for the hardware to need to come out. This would be extremely rare.

    Finally, please keep in mind that you don't know it is there. I swore at first I could "notice it" but in retrospect it was just my fear/concerns. I was quite scared of the fusion thing and also very phobic about my neck, throat, etc. In retrospect, I can't say it was fun (LOL), but it made all the difference in the world for me. I am 90%+ improved from a condition that had the doctors scratching thier heads looking at my MRI as to why I was not already in a wheelchair - and had me in constant, terrible pain.

    PS - you will have some neat xrays to show people too! And the doctors that do this stuff are such pros with the incision that after a awhile you can't really even see the scar. Amazing.
  • Like it was said above, no stupid questions here.

    Although I agree with the above that it's to stabilize your spine while you fuse, it's also there to keep strength in that part of your spine for the rest of your life.

    I have hardware on my 3-lvl ACDF, a plate with eight screws, and two rods and four screws in my lumbar spine from my L4/5 TLIF. My PT put it this way: If he could pick me up by my L4/5, put me over his head and swing me around, all the vertebrae in my spine would break with the exception of where the hardware is in my body, in my neck and at L4/5. That's how stable your spine should become with the hardware and fusion. Additionally, bone and scar tissue should grow around the screws making them a part of the bone in your spine.

    The hardware is meant to become a part of your body, like a bone in your arm or any other place. Ideally, it'll be in there for life, along with the screws, and you'll never have to think about it again.

    It is rare that fusion hardware has to be removed or revised in any way.

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