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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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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
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