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Spine and Back Health

Removal of Rods

11/16/2009

Question:

I am a 52 year old woman who had two harrington rods inserted into my spine when I was 30 years old due to severe scoliosis. I have started experiencing pain and numbness in my hip that radiates down to my foot. My doctor suggested that I have a CT Myelogram with motion studies to determine whether or not my rods are moving due to the hooks instead of screws used at that time to hold my rods and fusions in place. He further stated that if the rods are moving I could have them removed to eliminate my hip pain. My question is if the rods are moving and I have them removed will the fusions hold my spine in place or will I expereince movement? I have never heard that the rods are temporary and should have been removed years ago. Please help.

Thank you.

Answer:

Thank you for visiting NetWellness. On this site, NetWellness experts try to answer general questions about health. Only a health professional performing a thorough clinical exam is able to evaluate your symptoms. Although we cannot diagnose you or recommend treatment on this website, I can address one or two of your issues.

It is thought that spinal hardware, whether rods with hooks or with screws, can begin to fail and/or move when there is an incomplete or failed fusion somewhere along their length. If the spine is solidly fused, they should not loosen or move. Therefore they really shouldn' cause pain unless the issue is a failed fusion, or if they are impinging on an adjacent vertebra next to where the fusion ends.

Removal of the hardware is rare unless:

1. The patient is extremely skinny and one end of the hardware is protruding and either causing discomfort when lied on or threatening to erode through the skin.

2. The rod is impinging on an adjacent vertebra and causing bone pain from that.

3. There is a failed fusion somewhere in the construct.

Before having anything removed, you and your surgeon need to try to be sure whether you are fused where you are supposed to be fused, and what the condition of your spine above and below your fusion is. Good luck.

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Response by:

David J Hart, MD David J Hart, MD
Associate Professor of Neurosurgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University