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Hardware removal recovery time - I know everyone asks but...

nelnnel Posts: 402
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:55 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi again,

I just want to have a good idea about how long I should be telling school I will be off work for.

The reason is that after my original fusion I feel I went back too soon. As I teach Chemistry my job is pretty active - walking around the lab, standing at the board etc. It can't really be described as sedentary. I went back 11 weeks post fusion and really struggled (although I suppose if this infection has been in there all along then that might have had something to do with that). I am not sure my surgeon understands just what my job entails.

The same surgeon seems to think I will be able to go back to work 2 weeks post op. I really don't want to make the same mistake again as I was soooo miserable with pain and tiredness last time.

My plan is to see my GP to get signed off (I am UK based) and to get signed back on. It is just that school will need to arrange suitable cover or my life will be an even bigger hell when I return. School have not been helpful at all through any of this so I don't feel I owe them anything, but I do owe myself the chance to get better!

If anyone could give me a realistic idea of when I could return to standing up/walking about all day I would be really grateful.




  • My surgeon told me two weeks for a one level fusion... Not enough time. Unfortunately there is just not any way to tell how long you will need to recover. Can you tell them a longer time and then if you feel well enough go back earlier?
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • My hardware removal I was off work a little over 3 weeks. I could have went back at 2 weeks but my job is extremely physical, I work in auto manufactoring. Lots of running and bending, twisting and lifting, absolutely no sitting down for 9 hours a day. When I was scheduling the surgery my doctor said everyone is different. He told me 2-8 weeks because there is no set standard for hardware removal. Not enough people have it to average where everyone is and I may heal faster then someone else or I may heal slower.
  • Hi, I can understand how you want to have some idea of when you'll be able to return to work. First, keep in mind that this is a major surgery, and if you have any other problems with your body you have to take these into consideration. I think age plays a part in it as well. I'm 60 years young, and had my screws removed from lower lumbar on August 10. My surgeon left the cage in and he also did an exploratory procedure in that area to be sure I had fused, and I have. I had to get an okay from my primary Dr. before I could have the surgery because I have Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis and I have soft bones. I'm at day 10 of my recovery and I still have to walk with my cane. I'm on social security disability and work comp. so I won't be returning to work. I would say to be sure to get checked out by your primary care doctor if you have anything that might hinder your healing process after the surgery. You may want to arrange for 3 weeks off, but let them know that if you need more time, then you may be off longer. This is only my personal opinion, so check with your doctor. Keep us informed please.
  • Thanks for the replies - there are some good ideas there.

    Donnabe, I have already, sneakily, told work closer to three weeks than 2! Mostly so that I get some time to do prep before returning after the holiday. Needless to say I haven't done any work this break! I am sort of banking on feeling better after than I have this summer so that I can write some notes up! I also had such a bad experience last time - they did no prep for my return at all. Grrr

    Lilac, thanks for giving me a broader idea. My surgeon does seem to err on the shorter side of recovery times. To see a span helps a bit. It took 6 weeks for my incision to heal last time because of the infection. Guess that won't happen this time but as it leaked all that time no way I could have gone to work.

    Mindymork, thanks for the horse of the mouth info!! I am only 35 so I guess I should heal pretty quick but I don't know if all this infection business will play a part. I have been pretty ill the last week. Last time it was my gp who had to sign me on and off work anyway so I think I will chat to her about how ready I am regardless of what the surgeon says.
    I hope you recover soon - it does sound like you have plenty of complications. I should just quit moaning and get on with it.

    To be honest I would just like a few days of feeling better to myself before returning to the treadmill of the autumn term at school.

    Cheers guys.

  • I'm about to have a major revision (3 levels added), but the reason I post that is that they are leaving the old "anterior" hardware in....I guess added insurance or something due to the amount of levels.

    Did they do a block to be sure that the hardware is indeed the issue? I would hate to go through surgery only to find it made no real difference. I'm glad your school is presently working with you - and hope that continues. Just wanting to be sure the are pretty darn sure the hardware IS the pain generator....

    I am going to assume here that the recovery from hardware removal will be far less then the originating surgery? Keeping you in my thoughts woman. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Thanks brenda,

    No they haven't done a hardware block because it is not just that the pain cycles but the increase in pain has been accompanied by fever and general malaise for the last year. It has taken me that long to convince my surgeon that there is almost certainly an infection on the metal.
    The second opinion surgeon said that there was almost immediately but I think this guy won't believe it till he sees it! Last autumn my back actually leaked and took three rounds of antibiotics to clear up and still he said it was superficial.
    I really hope this sorts both issues once and for all cos I have really had enough of being ill and in pain!
    Thanks for the hug brenda!
  • I get ya Helen on them "knowing" without doing a block. My last issue(s) was seen on an x-ray, hence no need to do a CT scan.

    Hopefully they will be able to get in there soon and get that crap out of there. Infections are no fun, and a constant one has to be hard on you emotionally, and of course your body overall. I'll keep positive thoughts and prayers heading your way that this is resolved but ...SOON!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Cheers Brenda!

    I know you are going through the mill too.

    You are right this ongoing infection has been hard. Mostly because even when it is lying dormant and not causing me grief I have just been waiting for it to rear it's ugly head again. The surgeon kept telling me that it wouldn't come back but my logic was why not? It had come back three times before!

    I am tired and fed up and know I have to do what I have to do tomorow to give myself any chance of a normal(ish) life.

    Thanks for your support
  • I had my 2 level hardware removed in December. I was having a ton of pain (still do, so it didn't help at all getting the hardware out). My screws where moving a bit when I moved so we thought it best to get them out. The surgery wasn't anything compared to the fusion surgery. Now I developed lupus during my 2 fusion surgeries and with all the steriods I got during surgery I was feeling pretty good. I was in the hospital over night and actually stopped and had lunch on the way home (was waiting for pain meds at the pharmacy).. Now at home I got sick due to the steriods wearing off and my lupus acting up, but recovery was way less than the fusion. My doctor told me to expect alot of drainage from my back as the last surgery I had a ton (infection) but I didn't have very much which was nice :) I don't work though so I can't imagine going back to work within a couple of weeks. Recovery might have gone faster if I didn't have a lupus flair after surgery though. I did start pool therapy about a month after surgery which was so nice, it helped me to get up and moving! About a month after was the good turning point for me, I was starting therapy, getting up better and moving more normal. Good luck with the surgery..
  • Thanks for that melinda,

    I also had a lot of drainage post op (infection too) in fact my back started leaking on day 10 and didn't stop for 4 weeks. It was so bad I didn't bother dressing as my pyjama bottoms were soaked through so quickly. I hope that doesn't happen this time.
    I am thinking 2 weeks is way too optimistic given the comments so far. Maybe with a desk job but no way with a lab full of kids all day!

    Thanks again

  • Is your hardwaard removal surgery tomorrow?

    If so, I will be thinking of you. 8>

    What amount of time have you given the school that you will need off?
    Hopefully by the start of the school year, you will have a better idea of how your recovery is going.

    I would over estimate slightly how long you will need off. If you feel better than you anticipate, you can always go back early if they will let you. If not you can work from home and really get your paperwork and planning for the year all in order.

    Keep us informed of how you are doing.
    We are here to support you through this. :H

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • Hi jelly, my surgery was on tuesday and I got home about 6pm yesterday (wed). I think my surgeon still didn't expect infection till he got in there and found the pus. Yuck! I saw my blood results pre op though and they were high for crp, esr and three sorts of wbc I think so pretty indicative of raging infection.

    Recovery in hospital was rough as I kept being sick and then the iv antibiotics really hurt my veins. In the end I begged to go oral. My arm has a wide red streak down it now.

    On a positive all my pre op pain has gone. Just the usual pain of the surgery itself now. Just hope this has done it now!

    I spoke to physio in hospital and she thinks 3-4 weeks recovery. I am going to tell work to expect 4-6 and then I have no pressure to hit a certain date. We gi back in 6 days so not the best strat to the year but it can't be helped.

    Thanks for your thoughts jelly.


  • Welcome home!!

    It is so good to hear that your surgery is over and that you are already feeling better than pre surgery.

    Now it is over to you to heal! Easy!! Lol!

    I will be thinking of you, and hoping that the infection has / is being dealt with, and that will be an end to it.

    It must feel strangely good that there was a reason for all your pain, and that you were right to keep pushing to have it investigated.

    We know our own bodies better than anyone else!

    Take good care of yourself, and hopefully soon you will be able to enjoy your time at home recovering.

    >:D< >:D< >:D<

  • What did your surgeon do when he got in there; did you have the hardware removal? Did he see bone at the fusion site?

    I've been following your posts, and wish you well in your recovery...

  • What did your surgeon do when he got in there; did you have the hardware removal? Did he see bone at the fusion site?

    I've been following your posts, and wish you well in your recovery...

  • Helen,

    I agree with your logic. It has popped you before, so being on the optimistic, and cautious side of the house is the way to go!

    Hopefully your doctors too will pay attention! Yeah, valid concerns, no question there!

    As for my mess, yeah dandy fun coming up. A friend on here suggested I get a swab to check for staff about 2 weeks before my surgery. I think that is a great idea - even though I haven't even had a flu since '02' and a cold or close to it since '05'...

    Stick with your guns Helen. Knowledge is great, but experience lets us be the ruler of our fate sometimes!! *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Howdy woman!!!

    I am going to guess (hopefully correctly) that they took your hardware out. I am sorry that you had more infections, but too, glad to see they where on top of it "ASAP" with the antibiotics. I hope this missive finds you feeling better and getting much deserved rest. Gentle *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hi guys!

    Yes the surgeon did take the hardware out and he also cleaned up in there. He didn't mention whether he checked I was actually fused or not but I really hope he did - he will get one hell of a telling off if he didn't! He sent biopsies of the pus and bone (I think) to the lab.

    He honestly didn't expect to find all this I am sure of it. On the morning before surgery he told me he was only keeping me in because I might need a drain. There was no way he expected to be pumping me full of the vein burning antibiotics at that point.

    Interestingly my physio in there asked me how long this had been going on because she had recently had a similar case where he kept sending the patient away telling them it would heal. It seems he doesn't like to admit there is any chance of a deep infection.

    I still feel pretty rough - I guess that is a combo of post op tiredness and the infection. I am sleeping a lot and that does seem to be helping.

    I do feel vindicated - I felt like shouting "I told you so" at him when he said that he had found pus in there. All I said was "I thought so" which is pretty mild for me. I am cross that I have basically lost the last year with this recurrent infection and all its associated illness and pain but I have to let that go. I knew that things weren't right way back LAST April but he has never listenend to me. Even if he had gone in last September he was so convinced it was just a stitch sinus that he wouldn't have looked at the metalwork and I would just have had two surgeries rather than one.

    I know that I had a good winter, and am thankful for that, but I did miss my Easter getaway to the Lakes and this summer holiday has been a write off. Trouble is, as a teacher, I have no flexibility around taking leave. I do have a break in Cornwall booked for October half term and I am soooo looking forward to that. I also have my Easter holiday to the Lakes booked already and this year I am going and I am going to get up the mountains for the first time since 2008!

    Thanks for all the good wishes - I am off for a lie down now!

  • I have now told work that it might take six weeks but have had no response from them. I have a feeling that they might be cooking up some "surprise" for me where they can get out of paying me or something like that. Did I mention just how supportive they are??

    Anyway I am now 8 days post op and can't imagine being ready to go back next week! I am sooo tired. I have only been out once so far and that was yesterday to get my dressing changed. I am pottering round the house but do tire easily. I think I need to be able to do my usual walking and hopefully a bit of swimming before I go back or else I don't think I will have the energy to start once I go back. I remember last time that going back to work knocked my recovery back loads.

    I have a PT appointment tomorrow - I have arranged PT at the hospital this time so that there is some continuity in my care this time. I have a GP appointment next Wednesday and I will ask for another two weeks off when I go I think.

    Anyway, wishing you all a low pain day

  • Hello, I have only just found this forum and found all the comments very useful. I am due to have my hardware removed on 12th Oct 2011. I did have a "block" injection for inflammation of the facet joint but it didnt work, hence the surgery. I am putting alot of hope in this operation that it will ease some of the terrible pain. I am taking painkillers and also have morphine on standby all the time. As I live on my own I am concerned as to how I will cope when I come home.
    I hope everyone has a good recovery aand have happy times ahead. x
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