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L-5/S-1 Hardware Removal

jimzcarzjjimzcarz Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:59 AM in Lower Back Pain
I had the Hardware removed from my L5-S1 Fusion on the 2oth of Dec.2o11.(it was installed (6-06) And from the moment I woke up I could feel a difference. That golfball sized knot was gone from my back.Along with the stabbing sensation that went along with it.
Don't get me wrong this still hurts like hell but it's a different kind of pain.I think it's probably just the surgery area itself because of its locality and the fact that it is getting better everyday.
I actually sat behind my drums for a minute today and have pretty good leg strength back in both legs but I'm not going to push it for a while.I like the possibility that this may be the last of my severe back pain.
This may be the best Christmas I've had in a long time.
Anyway If this is a procedure you are considering I highly recommend it if your Doctor says it's cool to take it out.
It really seems to have helped with my pain. I'll keep you updated.


  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,476
    That is great news!

    It's so good to hear when things work out well :)
    So happy for you!
    Spine-Health Moderator
    Please read my medical history at: Medical History

  • Man what a difference....I didn't even notice the rain. The usual pressure drop was debilitating with hardware installed.Still have discomfort from surgery site but that's to be expected. I'm even getting my appetite back. Pain pills down to 50% normal.
    Happy New Year
  • First off, I am so happy to hear you have found relief with your hardware removal. I am struggling with my recovery after a TLIF fusion of L5-S1 that I had in March 22, 2011. After a CT scan my fusion is successful but the pain in the area of my hardware is very intense and the pain in my leg and lower back is worsening especially with cold weather and pressure changes. I can't walk, sit, or stand for extended periods and I can't seem to find any comfortable positions. My doctor can't seem to figure out what the problem is because everything appears to be where it is supposed to be.
    My questions to you are:

    Did you have your fusion in June of 2006 or June 6th of 2011?

    What were the events that lead you and your doctor to remove the hardware?

    Where you experiencing heightened nerve pain before the hardware removal or mostly pain surrounding the hardware?

    I appreciate any information you can give me and I hope you are continuing to improve with each day of this new year.


  • Caitlin,
    Yes I too could tell you it was going to rain, Pressure & cold was debilitating. I'm on my feet 8 hrs. a day on concrete. Anyway I have been getting nerve ablations since my fusion in 2006 for the residual pain. Anyway after the fusion, ablations and a ton of meds one of my Dr's asked me why I left the hardware in. I went through the roof because I wasn't aware they could remove it. All of my pain centered from the surgery sites so it wasn't a question of what was causing it. They can remove it after a year.btw. Once I found out I called my surgeon to confirm and set the appt. Don't wait for your Dr. to suggest it.
    Look at a fence where they screw the 2x4's to the 4x4's. When the wind blows the fence it puts stress on the screws every time the board twists around them. Sorry for the analogy.
    Hope this helps
  • I had my S1/L5/L4 fused in Jan 2009. I still have pain but I think its from the hardware and scare tissue.

    If you don't mind, what was the cost and was it covered by insurance?

    What was the recovery time?
  • Thank you for explaining your experience. I have a few more questions though. What was your recovery after your surgery like? Did you always have pain in your hardware? Did you fuse successfully and still have pain?

    My CT scans show that everything is fusing (slowly) and in place with no movement but im still not able to string more than 3 days together where I am able to bend sit or walk for extended periods.

    I am about ready to rip this hardware out but I have to start with some cortisone shots in the hardware area first to see if that's the problem or not. Any information would be helpful for me, Im starting to feel crazy because my surgeon sees no issues yet I have no quality of life.

    Thank you and I hope your healing is still going well.

  • I can honestly tell you that I do not know how much it costs. My co-pay was 35 bucks at the surgeon and the hospital co-pay was 100.00. My ins. covered everything. As far as recovery time. Its been 4 weeks today since the surgery, I've been back at work for the last 2. I am taking it easy, but I am still in the shop all day on a concrete floor. I'm still weak but 85% of my pain is gone and some days I think I actually feel normal. (It's been so long I've forgotten what that feels like)This procedure actually worked for me. Don't get me wrong My muscles still ache, my back still knots up, etc. But
    that pain is part of life. If your pain is as bad as mine was you probably know the difference. Mine felt like a golfball with needles in it about an inch under the skin, going right into my spine.
    It affected everything. I felt like someone had a knife in my kidney 24/7.
    I'm not a doctor but I do bolt things together for a living and even I can look at my xray and see that one of the rods had twisted. (the doctors didn't see it)
    My advice is this.
    If you can live without it (meaning you've successfully fused) I would pull it out. The extra stress placed on the joints that hold the hardware will eventually cause it to fail (see fence analogy above) and that pain will be 10 times worse than anything you're feeling now.

    Good luck and get a Good Doctor.
    If you're in San Jose see Dr. Marshall Rosario. He's the guy the other Doctors go to.
  • Thats good to hear, with most L5-S1 fusions Do they usually leave the hardware in after it is successfully fused? or usually take it out?
  • They usually leave the hardware in just because a second surgery is not ideal for a number of reasons (possible infection, nerve disruption etc) but mostly because for most people it never bothers them.

    I just came back from my surgeon and also had a second opinion both stating that I need to have mine removed. They have told me that because I have a slender build (not alot of fat around the area of my hardware)I am being affected alot more than others. Honestly if I had weight on me or not I think some people just don't do well with foreign objects being screwed into there spine haha.

    My surgeon has proposed laying some extra bone on top of where the hardware is to ensure fusion because I am only 10 months post op. He also will not operate until the year mark of my surgery even though I am fusing very well.

    I cant wait to take mine out its is so painful every day all day. But after reading Jimmys posts and some other about there success with hardware removal I am very optimistic.

    Thanks Jimmy glad to hear you are doing so much better! You have given me alot of hope!!!

  • I had my 2d L5/S1 fusion in May 2011 as my first failed. The 2d was an ALIF so recovery was quicker though. While my pain was a bit less after the ALIF, I have a constant pain in my back at the L5/S1 site- I can place my open hand across the area at my waist that hurts. It is like a constant, very intense squeezing and intense, mind numbing ache. My drugs barely take the edge off and don't relieve the pain: 15MG oxycode 4xday, 24MG exalgo every morning, muscle relaxer 4xday. I'm curious if your pain waas similar before you had your hardware removed? As I said, my pain has been constant since the surgery and I'm at a loss. I'm waiting for the doc to schedule a SCS implant for next week. BTW, the NS put stem cells in the cage to help with bone growth if that matters. This is nuts! The pain is so intense and so constant that, if I had the guts, most days I'd take myself out, if you catch my drift. I appreciate your thoughts.
  • I am reading this post and getting somewhat hopeful that there may be help for me yet.
    I had a L5/S1 Fusion in January 2009 but I continued to have nerve pain down my left leg - my surgeon said that it was from scar tissue and that there is nothing that can be done surgicaly to fix me so he sent me to a pain clinic. Wanting a 2nd opinion I saw a Surgeon in Buffalo (I am from Canada - we have crazy wait times to see a surgeon)after the surgeon reviewed my MRI, CT Scan and a EMG it was his belief that the hardware is too big for my back and needs to be removed - my pain doctor agrees. I did have an epidural injection at the hardware site and did not get relief but I did not have much confidence in the doctor that did the injecton.
    My questions are: Was your pain in your back or did you also have nerve pain down your leg?
    Did the Doctors ever think your problem was scar tissue? and lastly What are your pain levels at now?
    I appreciate any advice anyone can give me, I am so terrified of doing something to make things worse.
  • I had a partial disectomy L4-L5 8 years ago and a fusion at L5-S1 March 2011. I also had spondythesis and I was extremely athletic which caused stress fractures so my vertebrae would slip in front of one another on top of my nerves alot throughout those 8 years. I would slip discs and have major relapses every year. Sooo my nerves have been beaten up very badly (I get a foot drop with the slightest irritation to my nerves) and my experience may be different than yours in some ways. With that said here are the answers to your posted questions:

    Was your pain in your back or did you also have nerve pain down your leg?

    I have had pain down my leg and in my foot (harsh pain through my heel and extreme pressure/pain in lower side of left leg) throughout my entire recovery from my fusion. This pain gets relieved with nerve isolation cortisone shots but I find those to flair the pain up even more for the first week and a half and at two weeks it gets better. I have had 4 since my last surgery so I have had to turn to having what they call "trigger point" injections which is much less invasive. They put the needle in right near my hardware (where it is VERY tender to the touch) above and below it. The recovery of that was very difficult for me (not I am allergic to everything!!! all pain meds and all nerve meds) but it has given me MAJOR relief from the pain in my leg and foot. However the pain in my back near my hardware never goes away and is aggrivated with any and all activity (bending, leaning forward, sitting, standing). I almost always have an intense pressure and numbess and tingling down my sacrum.

    Did the Doctors ever think your problem was scar tissue?

    The doctors suspected scar tissue but when they viewed the MRI and CT scans they didn't see anything that was pressing on nerves. They suggested deep sports massages that break up the scar tissue (see a physical therapist or trusted licensed sports massuse) because that is always something you need to be aware of post surgery. I do acupuncture for scar tissue break up and pain management.

    What are your pain levels at now?

    I am three weeks since my last injection so I am still in the peak of the medicine. I still can not do more than 1 hour of walking or any light activities without being put down in bed for most if not the entire rest of the day. My back always hurts and when I lean forward you can feel my hardware through my skin. I feel my hardware at all times and it feels wrong in there and has the sensation of catching on things. I have tried swimming, physical therapy, and countless different therapies all of which just cause more pain. It has been over ten months post surgery, still with no quality of life.

    This is a very personal and heavy decision but after multiple opinions I have been told I need to take it out. They will be filling in some of the areas with additional bone grafts to promote all skeletal bone fusion.

    There are a decent group of people who have hardware issues but for all different reasons. You have to seperate the pain in your leg and your back and do some trial and error to see what flairs up what part seperately. You can have nerve pain for a very long time after it has been irritated so that doesn't mean something is neccesarily wrong.

    If you find that leaning forward or any motion or movement that causes pain directly around where the hardware is then you could try having a trigger point cortisone shot around that area and see if you get relief.

    Its a long hard road to get to the bottom of this crazy contraption we call a spine. Stay with it and don't give up.
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