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Hardware Removal Necessary?

Dear All, thank you in advance for your kind advice. I am female, 38. I fell 30 feet landing on my feet and I had a "burst fracture of L2 vertebral body; retropulsion of fracture fragment with marked narrowing of central spinal canal at L2 level. Fracture of right lamina of L2 vertebra." All neurological functions were perfectly normal.

I had a surgery last year in April, 2013. Since the surgery I have recovered perfectly and I never had any pain since then.

Now, my question is: I currently live in Japan and I was operated in Tokyo. My Japanese surgeon (experienced and reputable) told me that in Japan they normally always remove hardware one year after the surgery. He said, "There are various opinions about it, various schools of thought but I personally believe that it is better to remove your hardware after one year." He said I might have some problems in the future and if I do have problems it will be harder to remove the hardware years later after it grows into my tissue. So, if I have it removed one year after the surgery it will be just a routine surgery and my bone will heal and fill in the holes created by the hardware (or at least this is how I understood his explanation in Japanese).

However, my European and American friends (doctors and physiotherapists) insist that "unless your hardware bothers you, there is no need to remove it". So, now I have a dilemma - my surgeon (whom I trust after the successful surgery) is inclined to believe that I need to have my hardware removed. All other people tell me it is unnecessary. What is the right answer? (Oh, by the way, my operating surgeon in Tokyo is not interested financially in my second surgery at any rate. I live i Osaka and I just happened to be in Tokyo after the accident. So, he told me "just do your removal surgery in Osaka, no need to come to Tokyo."

Now exactly one year passed after my original surgery and I am wondering; should I have a hardware-removal surgery or not? What is the best for my spine in the long run? Will my spine be stronger with the hardware or will it be stronger without the hardware? Why is there such a difference between Japanese vs. North American-European approaches?

Naturally, I do not want to suffer another surgery and waste time in the hospital but what is the best thing to do health-wise?

Your input will be highly appreciated. Thank you for your time.



  • i had mine removed due to the pain. i had to wait 2 years before they would do it. it helped a little with the pain but not much. i was in the hospital for about 3-4 days and on the pain machine for about 2 days. it was somewhat painful but not a lot. if they think it will help,get done. talk with the doctor and your family. it is your decision and we cannot make it for you. research the positives and negatives and get the maximum input from your doctor. good luck and once again talk with your family and doctor and get everyone input. waiting 2 years after surgery is the most important because it gives time for the fusion or whatever to heal.
    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.
  • If you are to get a hardware removal 2 years is the standard for it being remove because at that point you have the whole bone fused and is strong with less chance of breaking. My surgeon am I have talked about hardware removal (due to pain and hasn't been done yet) and she said unless you have pain then there is no need to remove if and you have a higher risk just going ini surgery again. If it were me I would wait. I have been told that with the hardware it helps the bone fuse because there is no stress since there is no movement where the surgery was done. There is a chance of the hardware breaking but it is a slim chance of it happening. You could always go see another fusion just to see what they think about another surgery so soon just to get some extra info.
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
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