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broken screw in fusion

I have had three surgeries on my back and the last one was a fusion at the L5 S1 region in 2008. When the fusion was done, the doctor found my S1 nerve was "damaged and the prior surgeon probably chronically damaged the nerve". Anyway, I recently fell and was having severe burning in my right thigh (which I never had before) so I went to my regular doctor. they did an xray and found one of the screws in the fusion was "broken". I went to the surgeon who did ny fusion and he said the bone was fused and he was not going to do anything about the screw unless the other one broke. He said I may have herniated a disk at the L3 region which was causing my thigh pain, but said to wait another few weeks to see if it settled down before he would order more tests. I am concerned that I have a broken scew in my back - what limitations do I have with a broken screw in my back? Has anyone had this and not had surgery?


  • LizLiz Posts: 9,652
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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I would contact the surgeon again and ask him about the risks involved in leaving the broken screw in place, and what, if any restrictions there should be so that you don't wind up doing damage to the nerves and other tissues in the fused area . It's great news that you are fused, but I would be concerned with the broken screw,.
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  • First, I completely agree with Sandi that I would contact the surgeon and ask these questions.

    I had a clamp come undone from a fusion. They did go and "revise" the hard ware because I had not fully fused and my spine had begun to slip out of place from the clamp failing. I asked many questions because I too was concerned. I have lots of hardware. When this happened I was basically given 4 options. #1 leave it alone knowing that my spine would continue to slip until it fused (not an option I wanted) #2 Go back with the original clamp (the "smallest" surgical option) and when I asked what we did if it came undone again I was basically told we'd be expecting it to fail at some point, but what we needed was for it to fuse, I asked if they would go "retrieve" it later and was told basically the ONLY reason they would remove hardware is if they felt like it was causing pain/damage, and that rarely does this occur, that its usually best on the patient to leave it in.

    I'll also say that when the clamp came loose it was tender/sore for awhile but that went away... My surgeon said that's normal that the muscles/tissue "adjust" which is one reason they don't rush in to retrieve anything unless its necessary (ie causing damage).

    If I were you, I'd have the surgeon look at the x-rays and I'd also ask for a CT or MRI so the surgeon could get a more complete look to be sure the screw wasn't in a position to cause damage.
    33yo mom of two. My surgical history...preadolescence scoliosis, kyphosis, and a hot mess.... 5 spine surgeries and lots of items added I wasn't born with (titanium, peek, surgical steel). Guess cremation is out. TSA loves me.
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