Removal of Orthopedic Surgical Hardware
Patients who have had surgery— whether for spinal fusion, knee replacement or hip fracture— report a high level of satisfaction with their post-surgical condition.
But sometimes an implant in the joint may start to cause annoying aches or stiffness. When this happens, it may be time to consider removing the hardware from the fused bones.
It’s not just pain that sends patients back to the surgeon’s office. In some cases, there may be infection around an implant. In other cases, nerve damage because of scarring, incomplete healing (non-union), or allergies are reasons to consider surgical hardware removal.
If there is an infection, the surgeon will perform a procedure called a debridement to remove the infected tissue. This takes place while the hardware is being removed. In the case of nerve damage, a nerve decompression may be performed during surgical hardware removal.
If the patient has had an allergic reaction to the implant (which is fairly rare with metal implants), the hardware may be replaced with a different material. As long as the bone has healed, the hardware can be removed permanently.
The success of surgical hardware removal depends on various factors, including:
- Whether the original fracture has healed
- Which part of the body was involved
- The function of the implant
- Whether soft tissues were involved
- The general health of the patient
In some cases, surgical hardware removal is more delicate than the original surgery. Nerves and blood vessels may be involved. In certain patients, a larger incision, or a different incision from the original, may be needed.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Your surgeon can help you decide whether hardware removal is a good decision for you. Many patients live with implants for a lifetime with no major complaints.
Medical studies show that more than two-thirds of patients are very satisfied after surgical hardware removal, citing relief of pain and stiffness as the chief benefits. The procedure seems to be more successful for removal of pins and screws (rather than plates) and in the lower extremities rather than in the spine.
Your surgeon can help you evaluate the pros and cons. One major incentive for surgical hardware removal is to make it easier and more comfortable for the patient to move around, which increases blood flow and contributes to general health.
If you feel your implant is a source of discomfort – speak to our medical adviser today. We can explain the options, and how they apply to your situation.
The type of surgery you had, your age and general fitness, the length of time since the initial surgery, your lifestyle . . . are factors that weigh on the decision.
If the implant is causing problems, surgical hardware removal is an option; it has been performed successfully on thousands of patients. There is no need to live with pain from implants.