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Help with answers about screws in neck

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,607
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:21 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical
I found out today that the titanium screws in my neck are broken. Has anyone else heard of this happening or know of a recall or anyone I can talk to for info? The pain is just about all I can take and I am on loritab abd have been for quite awhile. the surgery was on 8/02/07 and now the heads of 2 of the screws are broken. How in the hell does somneone break titanium? Am I seriuosly that tough?lmao!!! :jawdrop:
How do they fix this? I am also in a bone stim do these actually work? and if the screws are broken why not just fix it instead of making me lug around the stim for 6 more weeks. If I had it to do over I would not have done it and taken my chances.


  • I'm sorry that this is happening to you!! yes, I have heard of this happening to people unfortunately. I dont know what they do about this. All I can and will do is offer moral support and friendship!! :). Please keep us posted as to what else you find out!!!
  • I've heard about screws in ACDF's breaking. Actually, someone else on here has a broken screw...not at the head, but further down, within the bone. I also read about another case where the screws came loose.

    What level(s) did you have done? Have any of your symptoms improved since surgery?

    Take care!

    PS...is that a pic of you? My brother used to play the drums before and after his first surgery, ACDF at C5-6. But then never pulled them back out after his 2nd surgery on C4-5. Maybe you musicians just play too hard! :)
  • I had screw troubles too. They didn't break but they came completely out of my vertebrae and the plate, migrated down my neck and ended up facing forward and at some point punctured my esophagus. I had a nasty infection and a huge abscess in my throat. This went undetected for months because difficulty swallowing is a symptom you know, they actually told me to take sore throat lozenges. For me they had to do emergency surgery to remove all hardware and then redo my fusion from the back. It's taken three surgeries and six months and I'm still in my collar. It's been a nightmare!! I talked to someone else who's screws moved and she also had to have them removed. What does your doctor say? I know they have me on bone stim and say I may have to wear it for a year. My first fusion was in May '07 and I had no bone stim and hadn't fused at all in eight months!! It was all the play in the vertebrae that drove the screws out, so they say.

    I'm with you tho, if I had to do it over again I would live with the pre-surgery pain, I am so much worse of than before treatment. I wish you well!!!

  • I think about them in my neck all the time......I was told by my surgeon that I could fall off a 2 story building and my hardware would not move...as I looked into his nerdy little face I found that hard to believe. My question is what are the screws attached to??? I had a corpectomy so there is no vertebrae......are the screws just anchored into the bone fusion?? To this day I don't think strange objects belong in the body. Just my thought.

  • Jan--your story is really something. What a shame you have to go thru all of this! Another reason (in my opinion) to be VERY careful about surgery. I haven't had surgery, and I'm hesitant despite all the issues I have. I pray that I can safely avoid it as long as possible. I would like to hear more about your symptoms, diagnosis, and experiences. ---Mazy

    Shar51--I hope you never fall off a 2-story building! :) --Mazy
  • So I'm still having problems with swallowing and now I saw this. UGH. I'm 5 weeks post op ACDF C5-7. Should I be alarmed that something has happened?
  • Now I'm kind of thinking more about what I have in my throat... I was told that the hardware is only there to help hold things in place while everything fuses.

    I know some people have issues with screws and stuff, but many people have hardware and screws used in many different operations without any problems.

    Just like that whatever chance every operation has with it, maybe that is the same with hardware? Maybe just certain odds of something happening can cause issues? Now, if someone never fuses, I would guess those screws take more of a working holding things in place?

    I'm not going to really worry about it, think about them, yes, but it is what it is, but I also know that my surgery has been well worth it so far.

    To worry about the "what ifs", not worth it, I'd rather have a better quality of life, just my opinion for anyone thinking about not having surgery over possible hardware failure.

    Really, we all run/ran the risk of the anesthesia not putting us completely out and feeling everything, the risk of infection, them leaving something inside of us, risk about the surgery not being a success, the risk of being that small percent that has something unforeseen happen... That's almost like not walking across the street because something can happen? Everything is a gamble in life.

    Hope I don't come across the wrong way, just there's other things to think about, thats all.

    Man, I would also hope for those with problems with their hardware, it would be addressed and corrected right away!!!
  • I'd talk to your doctor when you see them again. I am 9-weeks post op from c6-c7 ACDF... Now that my collar is off for about two-weeks, I am noticing the difference in my throat as I am starting to move my neck more and more.

    I'm sure it is just because now there is something else in there between our vertebrae and whatever else in in there - LOL

    I am going to discuss it with my neurosurgeon when I see him next week about when I can go back to work, but I'm not too worried, it is going to take sometime to get use to.

    Thank God I really didn't have any issues with my throat more then the night after surgery and the following day.

    Hope your recovery goes well, take it easy!
  • I had two bulging discs, stenosis, bone spurs and foraminal narrowing C5-7. Most of my pain was in my neck with decreased ROM and in my shoulderss. I had spasms that would completely take me out of commission with terrible headaches and my right arm was like dead weight, painful with any use. The scariest thing, that led me to surgery was that my doc said if I was in an accident or to take a fall, those bone spurs could sever my spinal cord and I could end up paralyzed. I wonder now the validity of that comment. My advice to anyone is get lots of opinions!!!! remember doctors only practice medicine. I have permanent nerve damage due to the complications from the failed fusion and was told I am extremely lucky. Bottom line, my doc screwed up with me!! I'm sure of it.

    Good luck to you, my current Doc is excellent if you want a referral, I don't know where you live, but she saved my life - literally!!


    One more thing, I've had three epidural injections years previous to my surgery and was always very happy with the results and alleviation of pain, have you tried that?
  • Insist on x-rays!!!! it is the only way to track the hardware From what I've read on the subject very few studies have been done on the long term effects of this surgery on the throat. Just insist on x-rays, my current doc watches the hardware with x-rays for a full year.

    Best of luck :)
  • Jan-thanks for posting your info. I've got some of the same stuff you had. I got the "paralyzed" thing from one surgeon. One P/A told me that the chance of that happening is 1/300,000, compared to 1/1million for a person without cervical damage. One N/S told me that a catastrophic accident could happen to anyone. Another N/S told me that "alot of surgeons use that line as a scare tactic." I'm lucky right now, my pain is very minor. I guess if I were in bad pain, I'd be running to the surgeon's office! I'm in Colorado. Thanks for your help!--Mazy
  • My husband had a anterior c6-7 fusion in 1988. The only way bony abnormalities can be accuratley detected isthrough a CT. In 1989 they suspected a failed fusion, but no one ever followed through. Telling him it/s just muscle spasm and exacerbation of chronic pain. Finally, in 2000...I brought him to a different ER/hospital and they said something is definately wrong, ordered a CT.. Failed Fusion!

    Went back to his normal hospital, they could not deny him any longer. They did a posterior fusion c4-7 with titanium pplates and screws (supposed to be permanent), with a laminectomy. He felt better about a month, but had a bump the size of 1/2 an apple at the surgical site that oozed clear spillery fluid. Post op visit, surgeon said it was normal and the it was a seroma, (ya rite). He became worse, in wheel chair again...I had to feed him and hold a
    urinal and ambulate him. He scream in pain (even on 150mg of morphine) Said it felt like the screws were trying to poke out. No one beleived him, said he was just drug seeking. Found a very good surgeon in San Jose, that ran alot of tests and finally decided that he needed to do an exploratory surgery. He found that the cytic mass was harden CSF and was compressing on his spinal cord, cleaned that out and sealed it up with gel foam and also was literally able to pull two of the lower pedicle scres out with his fingers! He did take all the hardware out, as my husband had fused. He told him that he was right, the screws were trying to poke out of his neck. Yes, screws come loose, and is very painful. I feel for you as I lived and saw the horror my husband went through. Don't give up, there is help out there! AK :H OH also, he's out of his wheel chair, able to funtion pretty normal, off morphine and doing pretty good since 2004!
  • It's terrible that you both had to go thru that. God bless you.--Mazy
  • Demetrius, I too have broken screws. My 2 level fusion was done in Feb 2006. I was having arm pain again and so I took an xray( I am an xray tech) and I found broken screws at C-5. Mine are broke in the center of the vertebrae. Supposedly it happens from movement. They asked me what the heck I had been doing!! My NS has never seen screws broke in the middle of the bone before as it usually happens right at the head of the screw next to the vertebrael body. Where is yours broke?
    They tell me as long as they do not back out I am okay. I recently had a posterior foraminotomy and that surgery is pretty painful and I am not healed from that 7 weeks out.

  • Now I am really worried about the screws they placed in me. Kinda freaks me out a bit now that I am hearing and reading all of these stories. In the doctors office yesterday I might a woman around my age whose screws broke in here neck and she was there to schedule another surgery. Her surgery was done about 2 weeks before mine. The docotr told her right now the screws arent hurting anything, but he said eventually they would so he wanted to go back in and take them out oh yeah plus she hadnt even began to fuse at all.
  • That is the most clear pic of a broken screw....and yes now I am worried.....I have not felt "right" in a long time. My pcp took an xray in April and said I was fused but I don't know.......this arm/shoulder pain I'm having is not getting better.....2 weeks now of taking mobic and I'm thinking if it is tendinitis shouldn't it be feeling better???

  • That is very freaky, broken in the middle of the vertebrae... Makes you wonder, huh?

    Now, since I have screws and all inside of me now, I'd ask you, have you asked anyone else as to why that could have happened?

    Your vertebrae doesn't bend, the whole thing moves (before fused), but it won't even bend in the middle unless its broke. I'm wondering if some how when they were inserted and tightened that something wasn't done wrong... You know, over tightened or something to stress them?

    You can see that the screw is still intact on both sides of the break, but being shorter I'd think the half attached to your hardware could work out since there is less for it to actually be screwed into.

    Again, I'm not going to worry myself, but I will also think more about anything "weird" that I may feel/happen down the road!

    In my x-ray, I was worried because the screws for the bottom of my plate were both identically place in the middle of c7, looks like one screw... My screws in c6 are more towards the bottom of my vertebrae, and you can tell there are two. One is going into the bone graph.

    I questioned my neuro about it, and he said that the x-ray tech also called him because she was worried the screw was going into my disc... Of course there is no disc anymore - LOL

    My neuro assured me not to worry, that the screws only hold everything in place until it all fuses, and becomes one solid bone mass... I mean, I don't have to worry about the bone graph moving - LOL

    Seeing that photo of yours, my one screw is only partially in my vertebrae, if your screws broke under whatever pressure... I hope I fuse up real solid!

    If I were you, ask lots of questions, but again, for the rest of us, I wouldn't spend to much time worrying about any "what ifs", because with any "what if", it may never happen.
  • I found out my arm pain was from severe neural foramin narrowing...meaning pinched nerve!! My pain is not at all from the screw being broken. As long as the fusion is good it does not matter what the hardware does afterwards. My CT scan shows fusion with out complications. My screws were not broke one year post op but at almost 1 1/2 years post op was when I found it. I do know because I often take xrays of myself to see the progress of my fusion. So it is very strange who knows what happened....I do not think my NS or other Drs for that fact like having people in the medical profession. I even went into surgery and saw the halo type vise the put my head in for the last surgery!! Freaked out the anesthiologist when I told him that he would put my head in contraption and screw it doewn!! LOL!!
  • I have never heard of broken screws..OMG! But as long as they stay still and don't move...well..how my husband told his NS, he compared CT's and proved that there was motion in the screws. There is something, not sure what it is called, a bilateral or lateral x-ray, where they take picture of your neck one way and another series another. The you will know if they move...Do you feel like you're being poked from the inside? Ak
  • Was your surgery at the c7 level?? That's what happened to my husband the first time. Arms felt (his words..like someone took them off, banged them aroung a telephone and them put them back on.) Guess what? He had so many xrays and mris and they declared he was fused. NOT! Only a CT can accurately diagnose a bony vertebra, MRI's are mor for soft tissue. Check it out....why do doctor to the same test after test and expect different results? That's whacked!
  • My neuro looked at the extension and flexion (?) x-rays... That's how he determines if everything is staying in its place when you move.

    During those x-rays, they had me bend my neck as far bad as I could, and as far down as I could, and then compared to when the neck was still... This screw stuff is freaky.

    I never really smoked, only tried when I was young, didn't think it was all that... They say those that don't smoke have much better chances of fusing/healing. Also, smoking really wears on your disc, so they say.

    Well, now if I feel anything poking me, I'll demand some x-rays!!!
  • I'm fused C4-C7......still have the arm pain...I describle mine as feeling like they are exploding...the left arm felt like that as soon as I woke up from surgery and has never stopped.....when the surgeon checked on me the next morning that was my only complain....left arm pain...he had a funny look on his face that I will never forget. Anyways....yep I watched a video of the posterior surgery I had and that halo thing is scary.....I remember the sores on each side of my head after surgery. Another thing that confuses me...
    Some say cervical hardware never comes out and some says tthat is does......


  • Sharon,
    My OS has told me that my hardware would remain in place unless it causes problems down the road. The only reason for the removal of my first hardware was to make room for the new plate and screws for the second surgery. After 4 months I had fused well enough to have it removed from c5-c6/c6-c7. I am still wearing a bone growth stim for the next 2 months.

  • I will be 7 wks post this sunday. Left arm getting better but very slowly. My PT said I should stay OUT of soft collar as much as possible to strengthin the neck muscles. I called NS to double check and he said that its OK. I find myself just TIGHT all the time in my neck, shoulders and then down my left arm. Sometimes when turning my head or shifting position I will hear and feel a POP or CRACK in my neck and it scares the sh*t out of me but it is always OK(I guess?) anyway, will take xrays during follow up on the 25th so will find out then. Sorry you are having trouble. This is all new to me. God bless
  • Thank you for your service! And, best of luck with your recovery!Keep us posted!--Mazy
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