Re: Hardware removal after a fusion
My spine specialist tells me that he typically does not remove hardware from patients who have a one or two level fusion, as it does not tend to become a problem. However, for patients with three or more levels, as they become more active, the hardware usually becomes intollerable somewhere between one and two years as muscles become irritated moving across the screw heads. I managed to keep the hardware 17 months the first time before asking that it be removed. The second 3 level fusion was where muscles did not rub, so it was not a problem, but yes, after I healed from the re do on the first 3 level fusion (it was broken in a MVA) then again I was reaching a point that it was bothering me. I did not have to go through the removal though, as more of my spine collapsed, and I had to have a 10 level done, and of course the other hardware was removed and those 6 levels reworked so that a total proper alignment was achieved.
My spine specialist tells me that we are not likely to need to remove this massive hardware, because I can no longer bend in the back, so muscles will not be rubbing over the screw heads except in the thoracic area. Yes, they bother me some, but it has just been one year and so far I am not asking for relief of pain caused by hardware. Removing three levels of hardware was an out patient 45 minute procedure for me, but it took more than 12 hours to put in 10 levels of hardware and the doc said that if it had to come out, it sure would not be as easy as before. I hope I don't have to find out how difficult it could be.
It is understandable that if a screw works loose, or some type of infection develops on a smaller fusion, hardware may need to be removed anyway. Titanium is used in the rods, so people should not be allergic to the hardware, but I don't know for sure that the screws are also titanium. Also, we have to acknowledge that every doc has their own preference and may wish hardware to be removed or not removed, regardless of whether or not it has caused the patient problems. Just another reason we patients have to be so proactive in our own care and try to stay a step ahead with questions to our docs.
Hope this informations helps.