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How to deal with my physician? Possible hardware removal..

wbaileywwbailey Posts: 8
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Chronic Pain
I had an L5S1 fusion back in June of 2010, it relieved my left sided pain, but I have a ton of pain in my right lower back which radiates down my leg and into my feet.

Coincidentally, the right side is where my hardware is, two screws and a rod.

I've gone to my surgeon multiple times to try and address this issue, but it still won't go away.

I've had epidurals, rounds of oral steroids and at least 3 cortisone shots in that area.. All the injections do, is provide partial relief for about 2-3 days.

At this point, my physician thinks it is "in my head" and that I'm fixating on it and that's why the pain seems so bad.

I feel like my only other option is removing the hardware on the right side. Apparently, there is a large amount of scar tissue where the screws went through the muscle. Cortisone injected in that specific area, reduces the pain significantly.

He agreed to take out the hardware on my right side because I'm already fused.

He doesn't seem to have an opinion either way, whether this will resolve my pain.

Ultimately, I don't feel like he is taking my pain seriously and I can't seem to get any direction from him re: what to do next.

Has anyone here had any experience with hardware removal and did it help?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



  • I don't have hardware, but I will tell you that it is possible that your pain WILL remain. The central nervous system gets "used" to sending pain signals, even when the cause of the pain has been removed. Nothing can "turn off" the signals, so it ends up permanent. Case in point - me. I had two surgeries for herniated discs that caused sciatica. That was 26 years ago, and I still have the severe sciatica today, 26 years later. My central nervous system is out of whack, due to the doc having waited both times so long to do the surgeries. The brain wouldn't "turn off" the pain signals, and now it's impossible to turn it off. Now I'm on pain meds for the rest of my life. i've tried EVERY SINGLE THING that a pain doc can do to no avail.

    You can have your hardware taken out and you MIGHT ease your pain -- but then you might not too. Just be prepared both ways. God bless & take care. Hugs, Lee
  • It sounds like your surgeon can't be 100% sure if it's your hardware causing your pain or not and simply doesn't want to commit to answering or addressing that until later, after the removal is complete. I doubt that this means he views it as being in your head, just that he would rather take a "wait & see" approach, then after removes your hardware and you have recovered from that, will go from there. He obviously gives your pain some value, or he would not move forward with the removal yet. I think it's good in a way that this surgeon is not seeming to know exactly what to do next, as obviosly he would not know if this removal is going to help your pain and be the end of this situation or not, and likely is the type who wants to cross each bridge as he gets to it.
    He is going to remove the hardware though, just not certain this is going to help your pain, is that right? That's probably a pretty honest answer as far as surgeons go..lol.
  • I am in the same boat. I have had 2 spinal surgeries, in '08 and '09 as the first fusion did not fuse. I am in pain and it is increasing. Still on Percocet 1-2 times a day as it does help alleviate it somewhat. My surgeon wants another Ct and then take hardware out, with no guarantees that pain will subside. Its very confusing as I am disabled and unable to do a nursing profession. can't sit, stand or bend for long periods of time. Activities of daily living wipe me out. I feel at times I have no purpose in life. If I try to seek support, the person I am talking to makes it allabout him. So I just exist. I try to be positive around others and not look like I am in the pain I am in. We all have our crosses to bear. I just wish relief could be given. thanks for letting me vent!
  • i had hardware removed for excessive pain about 8 years ago. i was told that i should wait for 2 years after fusion to have it done. it is still major surgery and i was in hospital for about 3 days with a pain pump. i couldn't believe how much metal was there it was unbelievable the amount theytook out. he put it into a baggie for me. well overall i am not sure it helped the pain. it seemed the same and over another couple of years fusion made the dis above it unstable and i had to have another fusion. watch out because fusions can make disc above unstable and you will have to have another fusion. last fusion was 3-4 years ago and i am waiting for my disc above it to crap out. hard decision about hardware reomval
    good luck
    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.
  • Mine is a totally different area, but just as an example, or perhaps only so that I can tell one of my surgery stories (lol), I have had several operations on both of my feet (7 total) and I too have hardware in my left foot. The bones were fused in both of my feet and of course some of the hardware has to be removed as it is left partially out of the bone during recovery. In my heels however there are 4 inch screws and they can (should) stay put in these areas. I had the screw in my right foot removed a couple years after that surgery because it felt as though it were billing out, like a splinter will if you know what I mean, and was causing me a great deal of discomfort. I still have the screw in my left foot, and this is the foot that gets all of the Drs & specialists attention, even though it is my right foot (w/o the screw) that causes most of my problems. I have RSD in my right foot now and it is blue, swollen, and I have very little ROM, but the left foot has the screw and usually gets the attention..until now. I finally have a good Dr., but I just think that often times the hardware speaks louder than anything. That is just my opinion on hardware.
  • Lee,

    I've heard of things link phantom limb pain etc.. sounds similar.

    I'm wondering if acupuncture or a tens unit would help any?
  • It was awesome for about a year, then little by little the pain started all over and now it is only controlled with a lot of narcotics. I think everybody is different tho, what helps one may not another. From my perspective, the ole back and how it reacts is anybody's guess.
  • In my case.. the surgery is 15 minutes and if I'm up for it, I can go home the same day.
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