Spinal hardware is used in a number of different procedures to help increase stability or facilitate healing after an injury. Rods, screws and plates are all common forms or hardware that are inserted, and while they are quite durable, they aren’t a perfect solution. Sometimes your spinal hardware can shift out of place, the site can heal incorrectly or the hardware can become damaged and break. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at what to expect if your spinal hardware breaks or shifts.
Spinal hardware is much more durable and technologically advanced compared to models from even just a few years ago, but again, this doesn’t mean they are immune from production flaws or that they still can’t be improved upon. Even if they do exactly what they are supposed to do to account for normal physical activity, if you fall off a ladder or are involved in a car accident, these structures can break just like your bones can. But when hardware breaks, it can’t mend itself like a bone.
So what happens if your hardware breaks or you suddenly develop pain or discomfort because it has shifted out of place? If you know or suspect that something has gone wrong with your spinal hardware, you’ll want to contact the surgeon that performed your initial operation. If you no longer reside in the area, you’ll want to connect with an experienced spine surgeon near you.
The first thing they’ll do is request that you set up an initial appointment so that they can get to the bottom of your issue. During this first appointment, they’ll ask about your symptoms, conduct a physical exam and have you perform some movements if you are able. Then, they’ll likely order imaging tests in the form of an X-ray or MRI. This will allow them to visualize the hardware and the nearby structures to determine the extent of the damage. Once they have a diagnosis, they can begin developing a treatment plan.
Once they’ve established what’s going on in your spine, the spine surgeon will walk you through your options. If imaging tests did not reveal any hardware damage, only a tissue disturbance, you may be able to get by with physical therapy, controlled exercise and an extended period of rest. If, however, your hardware has been damaged, a revisional operation will likely be in the cards.
Each revision procedure will vary based on the individual needs of the patient, but they will likely have two of the same goals:
Oftentimes these two points go hand-in-hand, because you can add stability to an area by replacing damaged hardware that is no longer helping to provide support. Damaged hardware may be replaced or additional hardware may be inserted to ensure healing takes place as expected and so your spine can handle any future stress your body may put on it. These revisional operations tend to have great results, but depending on the extent of the damage, it may not result in a full alleviation of your symptoms. However, symptom and pain reduction is common.
For more information about revision procedures to correct broken spinal hardware, or to talk to a spine specialist about any discomfort you’re experiencing with your hardware, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today.