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Hardware Removal Success Stories & Post-Op Advice?

fishinwidow98ffishinwidow98 Posts: 54
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hey y'all, hope you're staying cooler than we are here in Oklahoma.

Thursday is my big day- they're finally taking out my hardware from my fusion. Buh-bye to the 6 screws and 4 rods!!! I am hopeful and super optimistic that this will work. I've heard a lot of success stories about people who had the removals done and felt like a new person so I am hoping for similar results.

What I wanna know is- how's the recovery from this? Anyone have any advice? I am still trying to tear my mind away from the hellish thoughts I had pre-fusion as far as length of recovery & what to/what NOT to do...etc... All I know is I will be spending Thursday night in the hospital to control my pain levels so what else can I expect? I DID ask the doc- he was NO help SO... whatcha got for me?

Thanks in advance my loves!!! <3


  • I would like to hear from others who are considering metal removal or have had it removed, as well.
    Please let me know how your surgery goes. I have screws,and a cage. He said he will leave the cage. I have weak bones, and had a 2 level fusion at L 3/4 and L 4/5, and like you I'm not looking forward to this surgery because I remember the pain all too well. My surgery is the 1st week in August.
  • I thought they left the metal work in there for life???
  • Allot of the time they can leave the metal in, but with others it can be the cause of pain, especially if it's too close to a nerve, or the screw breaks off, or the body plain rejects it. With me, my body is rejecting it.
  • Hey Peter- they take it out sometimes when there's pain or if the body rejects the metal. Some docs take out hardware religiously after a year (I worked for one for a year) but others can keep the hardware for good. They're leaving my cage and the spacers but taking the rods and screws. I've had CT's and a myelogram which showed there is no contact between the nerve and the hardware but if there is ANY chance that this will help my pain level I am game. I am so tired of the constant pain and lack of being able to live my life!! (sorry- I will get off my soap box now)

    Good luck with your back!!
  • Yes i have lot of pain 40ml oxy in the morning 20ml oxcy at night with 2 valium had L4 S1 last july
  • I am very interested in your post. My doctors have never really tried to figure out the source of my pain. My ortho just said some surgeries don't go well and my pain doc just treats the pain. How do you know that hardware is the issue. I've never had a CT or a myelogram. Just MRI.
  • For me the surgeon is going by the Xrays he did, and the location of the pain.
  • My hardware removal went really well. I went back to work a little over 3 weeks later. It's been about 6 weeks now and I'm doing well. I have a lot less pain now. I would never say I'm painfree because that just isn't in the cards for me, but I'm off prescription painkillers for the first time in over 2 years. I wasn't allowed to keep my hardware like some people do. They wanted to send them to pathology to make sure there was no infection hiding in my spine. I was actually scheduled to stay overnight for pain control, but in recovery talked my doctor into letting me go home. I figured I would feel better in my own house, and I did fine.

    Your doctor may not know what your recovery is going to be like. My doctor doesn't remove hardware very often, he said everyone he's done has been so different. Guess I'm throwing off his curve because he really expected me to stay in the hospital. He didn't even have a recovery sheet to give me after surgery. They gave me a microdiscectomy sheet that he marked a few things out on and added a few things on to.

    After they took me out of recovery to a room, I immediately walked by myself to the bathroom. No problem going potty or walking. They had me eat some jello and sit in a chair before I could leave but it was NO WHERE near as painful as the fusion. I didn't need therapy to help me do anything.

    The best thing I can suggest is to have at least two reusable ice packs ready to go in the freezer. I didn't need them for the pain but my back swelled badly. I say two so there is always one frozen when you need it.
  • Surgery went well Thursday. I decided that after they had my pain under control I would like to go home to heal- figured it would be best for me. Thursday evening I went BACK to the ER to get my pain under control. 4.5mg of Dilaudid later I was ok enough to go home...

    This has been a nightmare. I am in so much pain and my doc has made comments that "most hardware removal patients are just given Lortab to control pain" & I am on Oxy IR 15 mg on top of my Perc 10/325 & Neurontin 1800 mg daily. I am NOW being referred to a pain specialist which will take weeks but I am going. I hurt. I am SO sorry the doc's recovery plan for me did not go as planned but I can't help it- it's awful!

    I am laying on ice and taking my meds regularly, and doing my best to stay positive. Thanks for ALL the warm wishes and helpful replies!!
  • I understand how you feel. Why don't doctors "wake up" and realize that EVERY patient is different in their recovery. I didn't expect to end up in ICU from my neck surgery 2 months ago, but I did. My hardware removal is in August and I already know of the things that could happen, such as bleeding because I'm prone to bleed, etc...
    My doctor gets on top of the pain right away, and makes sure when you go home that your pain meds are there. Not every doctor and hospital is the same.
    I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. Please keep us informed.
  • How did you do with the hardware removal? Any help with the back pain? I am considering removal at L5-S1, but have had my hardware in for 23 years. A recent diagnostic test indicated that the screws are my pain generator. Hope you are doing much better!
  • How have you done with the hardware removal? What level hardware was removed?
  • I've had a rough time of it. The hardware removal was a cake walk but I had an incision that hadn't closed properly. I ended up having home health come out to do dressing changes and pack the open wound every 2 days. Doc couldn't figure out why the incision would heal, then reopen & didn't know why I was still in so much pain. Went in Nov for a debridement of the wound and they found a 2" chunk of packing gauze that one of the home health nurses left in my wound. Since then I've been ok!! I go back to the doc tomorrow and am hoping to return to work sometime soon. Thanks so much for asking!!

    I had L4-S1 fused and all the involved hardware removed. I fused exceptionally well. The only residual issues I am having now are retraining muscles that have rested so long to MOVE and get stronger, and deal with the leftover pain and nerve issues. I can't seem to get my pain level below a 4 for any significant amount of time so I don't know... Hope all of you are faring well!! :H
  • Thank you for the information. I am glad that you are doing better now. I feel like a 4 pain level is an exceptionally good day, so would do the surgery in a heartbeat if it would reduce it that much. You look much too young to be going through all this. I started with problems in my 30's and have only gotten worse. I never thought about hardware removal until recently, but have always had a spot on my back, near where the hardware is, that no one can touch. Did you have diagnostic injection of the hardware done before you had it removed?

    It sounds like you had surgery last year and are about 4 months post op. Also, if I understand correctly, the removal of hardware has helped reduce your pain, but it is hard to gauge because of complications. May I ask what level was fused and what state you had the surgery? This is about the ONLY thing I haven't tried and I hate to get my hopes up, but I think it may be the pain generator. Thanks again for your response. If possible, could I send you a private email rather than post on the site?

    Many, many thanks and I hope you have continued improvement.

  • Absolutely you may send me an pm or a email quinn.family98@gmail.com I had a hardware injection done to see if the hardware had caused the pain and it was determined that yes it was. The hardware was removed from L4-S1 & I'm in Oklahoma. I work in the healthcare field so I have a high risk of injury from lifting or catching patients. I think I need to win the lottery LOL.

    Hope to hear from you soon!
  • Sounds like you are starting to feel better - I am struggling with the idea of having my L5/S1 hardware removed. I have nerve pain down my entire left leg along with burning pins & numbness, my surgeon that did the fusion in 2009 says that the pain is from scar tissue pushing on the nerve and that there is nothing he can do to help me so he sent me to a pain clinic. I saw another surgeon in Buffalo and he thinks the hardware is too big for my back and needs to be removed, my pain doctor agrees with him after reviewing my MRI. I did have an epidural injection at the hardware site and it did not seem to help with the pain I however do not have alot of confidence in the doctor that did the injection as I ended up 5 days after in the hospital with bacterial menengitis from an infection in my spine. I have also had a CT Scan and the radiologist does not think it is the hardware but I also had a EMG / Nerve conductive study which shows there is compression on the nerve.
    I am so afraid of making things worst pain wise that i don't know what to do.
    What type of pain did you have prior to having the hardware removed and how did they know it was from the hardware?
    I would appreciate any input or advice.
  • I am still in limbo, but finally saw the surgeon in person. I had the screws injected about four weeks ago. Staring the day after, I was able to get up in the morning without being hunched over. I had three days of 1-3 pain level, which was amazing! From that test, they are pretty sure that the hardware is the pain generator. My doctor did a fellowship in Switzerland. He tells me that the hardware is generally removed one year post op in Europe. He said that the muscle rubs against the top of the screws setting up a bursa sac and causing a bursitis type pain. My pain specialist concurs that, if the hardware injection helped, removing the hardware could be helpful. I ALI have a titanium plate at C3-C6 , but my low back is so painful that I decided to focus on that first.
  • Thank you for posting your story. I hope you are doing well. After almost two years of injections, every test imaginable and constant back pain, we finally got to a hardware injection that gave me three days of sweet relief. I can't wait to talk to the doctor about hardware removal. It helped me to read your story here.
  • I've told via a CT-Scan that a screw on the S1 fusion is too close to the common iliac vein and must be moved.
    I am talking to a doctor who wants to remove all the rods saying that they are out of alignment.
    I am also told that they want to do lots bone spur cleaning up on L3, L4, L5 & S1.
    I do Oxycontin 60mg twice a day, Oxycodone 15mg twice a day, 600mg neurontin 3 times a day and Zanaflex 15mg 3 times a day and try to work also.

    Pains endless and I am just after relief after 3 years following the fusion in November 2009 and having the pain re-appearing 6 months after..

    A little concerned about the removal and the new L3 to L4 fusion but I've been told it will all be done laproscopically.

  • Motorcycle accident last May- crushed femur and shattered spine. Fusion T5-T10 with pedicle screws and rods. The femur
    turned out to not heal due to the amount of splintered shards of bone so Doc did a bone graft on 1/14 from the same femur and though it now feels stable, it is stiff and sore, but I think it is healing. As to the spine, the pain from middle of back is stabbing, burning and relentless so Tues 2/17 I go in to have all the spine hardware removed. I believe it is the source of the pain (CT scan and x-rays reveal some screws are in contact with aorta) and will be glad when it is over. I am sure the removal will be less traumatic than insertion and I hope to be good as new by Spring.
  • Dear,
    May I ask you a silly question. By removing the screws, the bones will be hollowed out. Will the dr stuff it up with some kinds of fillings. Otherwise, the vertebrate may be fragile.
    Here in HK, we seldom hear of the removal of hardware.
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