Removal of hardware story

I had acdf L5 S1 in 2011.  Ever since that operation I had 50% loss of left leg function and every day extreme pain at the hardware location. 

It felt like a brick surrounded by glass, the pain never let up, I could feel the hardware in there tearing away at muscles etc. The area always itched and was super hot to the touch. Sitting in a chair or driving was a torture task.  I  felt that my life would never get better, I was missing out on LIFE !!!, needless to say I had given up on life.

sO I did allot of reading about hardware allergies to titanium. I called my Doctor that did the operation and after getting the hardware manufacturer information I was then convinced it needed to come out. Reading the manufacturer instructions that some people can have allergic reactions to the hardware and that it is temporary aid in healing the discs and should be removed once the healing is completed.. 

I saw an allergist and he said that we can test for allergies outside the body but not inside, I also learned about a test for inside the body called MELISA  which is done in Europe, so you need to have your PCP send off a blood sample to their testing lab.

I did not do the MELISA test as I was convinced that the hardware was the problem, not exactly an allergy but the hardware itself. After watching several youtube people that had their hardware removed I called the Doctor that did the operation, I had a semi fresh MRI so he saw that the fusion was complete and set a date to remove the hardware.

When I woke up from the operation ( which only took a few hours) I immediately felt a HUGE difference, that pain I suffered with all those years .....was gone.  I felt my left leg again, no more pain !!!!

I kept the hardware and re assembled it, the SHARP edges of the torx securing hardware and the sharp rods really blew my mind, you could run your finger over the part of hardware left open in your back and FEEL the sharp areas.

Recovery was a few weeks and a ton of itching of re healing muscles and nerves, me left leg ( which looked like half of my right leg muscle wise is getting stronger every day.

So just my little struggle with pain winds up a happy ending. 



  • I'm glad you were able to find relief. It sounds excruciating.

    I've had ACDF C4-C7 in 2015 and I too am allergic to nickel and chromium which I believe is present in a tiny amount in titanium products. I only know I'm allergic from having skin tests and wearing jewelry that has given me a rash. After four years I still have some pain around my incision that feels like a pulling and a slight burning. Your description sounds much more painful. I'll feel pain coughing or clearing my throat. (This is making think I should do a post and ask for some opinions.) I wonder if anyone else feels like this.

    I've had MRI's & X-rays of my spine and the report never confirms if I'm fused or not. What test is done to confirm your fusion? Is it on the report or only by your doctor?

    I recently saw a video clip on the tv news that fusion patients are suing because they were given fake, not medical grade hardware, that would create barbs that injured the tissue around it. For some reason there is fake hardware out there to save money. Your surgeon may not even be aware that he is using it as the fake screws are mixed in with the real screws. I was horrified to hear this. I'm glad to hear that you still have your hardware. I don't know how to do it but I might look into getting your hardware verified.

    I wish you continued happy healing.

  •    I have a friend who's daughter inlaw went into heart failure because of her cervical hardware and the fact she was having reactions to the metal. She had a cervical fusion after a car accident. 

       She's only in her mid 30s but kept saying her neck was worse. I had been over their house oneday and she kept saying how tired she was so she went to lay down woke up cause she was having trouble breathing so her husband took her to the ER. Through testing it was determined she was in complete heart failure due to metal allergies. During her stay in the hospital it was touch and go..first she had a minor stroke do to a blood clot in her lung..they ended up having to do a valve replacement with a artificial pig heart valve . They could not do a mechanical valve again do to her metal allergies. 

       But based on what I saw and heard some can have very serious reactions. It's rare though.

      And Faith I also saw that show. Most of the shotty fake hardware was centered in California but to my shock I did later read it was also sent to Maryland were I use to live at the time of my surgery. They claim they dont know who may even be walking around with it unless you have yours removed then they can tell.

       I also have my original hardware from when they removed it during a revision surgery..mine is anterior plating for cervical.  I was quite surprised how tiny they really are. We often only see them on scans were they glow big and large..but in the real they are rather small.

      But to sum this up based on my experience allergies  can happen but are rare. Would my friends daughter inlaw reaction scare  me..No because I've already had 3 surgeries and have had some form of hardware in my neck for 17 yrs..but it can and does happen

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  • My mistake my lumbar was a TILF  L5S1 not anterior.

    I too have a ACDF  cervical plate and 6 screws, aside from my lumbar L5S1.

    I would get the manufacturer from your doctor and research the hardware components. It states right in MY manufacturer info that the hardware should be removed and complications can occur such as localized tissue reaction, pain and abnormal sensations due to the presence of the device.

    I too have coughing, wheezing and my throat makes wheezing noises that wake me up when I sleep. I sometimes take benadryl and it relieves the symptom for a day or so. My dough sounds like bronchitis, I can exhale and that is what it sounds like.

     I have seen my PCP and had all the tests related to my throat and chest, all clear.  My ENT did a Fiberoptic Laryngoscopy and found the area of the hardware was in red and irritated.

    I saw the Doc that did the procedure and he insists that there is nothing wrong with me as a result of the hardware, which pissed me off once I read the manufacturers instructions.  He refuses to remove the hardware, so now I will move to legal action.

    For my lumbar the Doctor needed a newer MRI , CT and X ray to confirm the fusion was complete. I had two different Doctor one for the lumbar and another for the cervical.

    Like I stated the allergist said there is no way to test for metal allergy inside the body that is where the MELISA test  can help, I read where people have contracted MS from alloy in the body, everyone is different.

    As for my hardware from the lumbar... the rep for the manufacturer was present at my hardware removal so who knows if the hardware I was given to keep was really genuine and inside me.

    So my conclusion is: I had no symptoms before the hardware was installed in my cervical spine, I now have symptoms so the hardware MUST be the problem.


  • motommoto Posts: 3
    edited 07/30/2019 - 12:17 PM

    Also once you get the manufacturer technical information you can look up the alloy content.

    typically Titanium  6AL4V ELI and can be researched 

  • Faith981Faith981 Posts: 60
    edited 07/30/2019 - 12:19 PM

    boo9989, that is a terrible story. Thank you for helping make people aware of what can happen.

    Moto, very interesting information. I haven't researched yet what you said. I too had laryngoscopy and they didn't see redness for me. I've heard the pain and irritation is intense and I wouldn't describe mine that way but it is distracting.

    You're right about them possibly trying to switch out your hardware when they removed it but I remember hearing that medical grade hardware should make sharp edges from being screwed in. That's what sounded like a red flag to me.

    I went to an allergist before my surgery and requested the MELISA test but he advised it still wouldn't help. I can't remember why. My surgeon advised that they have never seen a patient become allergic to the hardware and that the amount it would give off is very small. Nickel and chromium is in food and vitamins too. I felt I had no choice but to get the fusion and wait and see if anything happened.

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  • motommoto Posts: 3
    edited 07/30/2019 - 12:21 PM

     IF YOU ARE IN PAIN and the Doctor sees no other reasons on the MRI, CT, X ray then the hardware could be the issue.

    from the MELISA site:

    Like all metals, titanium releases particles through corrosion. These metals become ions in the body and bind to body proteins. For those who react, the body’s immune system will attack this structure. This starts a chain reaction which can lead to many symptoms including chronic fatigue syndrome. The MELISA test is the only scientifically-proven test which can objectively diagnose titanium allergy and measure its severity. Those who test positive are advised to avoid exposure if possible. This may include switching to titanium-free creams and cosmetics or, in some cases, considering the removal of a titanium implant.

    As stated the manufacturers instruction sheet SAYS some people can have reactions to the hardware, which is temporary and should be removed.

    My hardware was not fake it has laser printed numbers on each part and those numbers are to be kept and registered by the Doctor if there were ever a recall. ( you can see them in my photo I posted)   you can also see how sharp the cross pin is and the securing nuts at the top, remember ONLY the screws are in your spine, the rest ( the purple part) is out in the open to shred muscles and whatever else it comes in contact with, I could FEEL the hardware sitting in a chair or in a car. Also this was only one side I had another 2 screws and the pin on either side of my spine. 4 screws, 2 pins and the locking hardware

    As for vitamins, your system digests them, the metal hardware does not go away, in my case my poor body tries to fight off the infection, which it never can.  I always felt sick and rarely had a solid stool.

    Now sans hardware I feel like a kid again and my body is repairing itself and my stool is normal.

    Now if I can only get my cervical hardware out of there I will feel much better.

  • I had an ALIF and PLIF of L3-S1 in October 2015. Since my pain hasn't improved since the surgery and I am still getting steroid injections and therapy for the area, as well as having a SCS implanted, I'm considered a failed fusion. 

    I had an ACDF of C3-C6 in November 2019.  A week after surgery, I went into full anaphylaxis due to a reaction to the Dermabond used to close my incision.  The area around my incision looked like I had a 2nd degree chemical burn, blisters and all. Fast forward 12 weeks and the area around my incision is occasionally itchy with little bumps coming and going.  My incision is also super irritated and tender. Over the past 10-14 days, my neck has broken out in a full blown itchy rash, the hives have returned from my face to my chest, and I'm having issues swallowing or having a feeling of something being stuck in my throat at times.

    After my initial surgeries in 2015, I noticed skin issues I never had seen before start popping up on my back. I developed horrible acne and rosacea, my body is always swollen, I've had MS-like symptoms (they already tested me for it), and my body is NOT the same. 

    I suspect a metal allergy and will start testing this week. Since I also reacted to almost all the different adhesives that were used on me this last surgery, including Tegaderm, I'll also be tested for adhesive allergies. 

    Whatever is going on in my body, IT SUCKS!!!

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,476


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