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Lumbar Screw Removal After Fusion

grannyat43ggrannyat43 Posts: 40
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all,
Looking for recovery information after screw removal. First a little background!

Had L2-L3 fusion in January 2005 and L4-L5/L5-S1 surgery in September 2007. Have been suffering from debilitating nerve pain most of the time (started in 2003!). Have had 22 assorted epidurals/SI injections in the last 5 years, 2 discograms, radiofrequency, and many trigger injections to help with the pain. Formerly on Fentanyl patches but refuse now due to loss of memory and problems with holes in patches, etc. Frankly they scare me - would rather use Vicodin! Horrible nerve pain that no medicine can control!
Epidurals give some relief for 3-4 weeks, but they only will do one leg at a time.

Have had to walk with a cane for months (therefore the grannyat43 reference!!) - cannot move 4 toes on my right foot and feels like my leg is broken. Numb but horrid pain - only my fellow nerve pain sufferers can understand!

Had to quit my very good full-time job in February due to the pain. Work a couple part-time jobs, mostly at home, sell on Ebay, and have another home-based skin care business to try to make ends meet (ask me about it - I really am making money at it!). Only good for about 3-4 hours a day even working at home. I do have a very supportive husband to help - calls me granny due to my cane and how slow I am! At the end of my rope - I want my life back!

My 2nd opinion doctor showed me my recent CT scan and we can see the screws extending out from the bone and pressing on the nerve sac at all 3 fusions. He has suggested screw removal, which will require my incision scar being reopened plus a couple more inches to cover L2-L3 (total of 9-10").

He said about 2 days in the hospital. If anyone has had this done, what is estimated recovery time after that? I am the queen of overdoing it - hoping for only a week or so!


  • Sorry about your problems. I have not yet experienced anything like that but I have read several account of loose screws at this site. So maybe some people with more knowledge on this subject will reply.

    Hope you will find relief soon.

  • I was absolutely shocked to read your story. Boy "when ya think you've got it bad, someone else has always got it worse". What an old but true clitche'. I have been through he** with my 3 level fusion 22 weeks ago, it's been absolutely horrible, painful and miserable, but man, oh man....

    Sounds like you need to find some totally different doctors all-together!!! Like the most top notch Neurosurgeon in your health care system, and I mean YEARS AGO!!! You've been used as a "human testing rat", it sounds like. Well it sounds like one experiment after another has failed, sorry... I would be pissed and never would have let it go that far!! #1, didn't anybody tell you that multiple cortizone injections eats away tendon and tissues? It is soooo bad for you!!! If a couple did not take the pain away after 4 months, you should have never gotten another, and found another doctor. Not just keep doing them over and over!!! I think they added to your situation to getting worse!!! OMG!!!!

    I have no advise. I think it's a mess. All I can say is good luck, and hope someone in the health industry will FINALLY do you right!!! I feel so sorry for you, and I don't mean that in a mean way,'s just so sad that you've had to endure this and for so long!!!! LOOK FOR A GOOD NEUROSURGEON!!! Get fixed once and for all!!!
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  • I actually have a wonderful surgeon and a wonderful pain management doctor.
    They have weighed the risks of the injections against the benefits - the major benefit is they keep me walking and out of a wheelchair and working. I am tested regularly for adverse side effects.
    My insurance co. is one of the problems - they only allowed a 2 level fusion last time when I really needed a 3 level. And they denied a new procedure that my doctor really thought would be the best option.
    If I found a different surgeon my insurance would deny any of the newer things they would want to try also!
    We did what had to be done to keep me going! I have multiple problems they are dealing with, not just the degenerative disc disease. And it is partly the way my nerves react; which is different in everyone. They think in addition to the screws impinging on the nerves that I may have developed an allergy to the sst screws. The cages are all titanium.

    Hoping this next surgery will calm the nerves!
  • Hi granny:

    I'm sorry that you are having so many problems and are in pain.

    I had TLIF, L2/3 fusion last Sept.

    I don't know anything about the hardware removal but I have read earlier posts about the subject. If you scan down you will find some earlier entries that might be helpful.

    My best to you.

  • Like the others, I haven't had screw issues (that I know of anyway...I'll have a CT soon). I do feel for you, and I understand your pain! Nerve pain is the worst to try and treat. I also understand your frustration with insurance not allowing you to get what you need. It's a sad situation and I see it every day as a nurse. There are a few people on the site that have had hardware removed. Look for the threads that are titled for this, and if there is someone that seems similar in situation, just PM them. Everyone on this site is so helpful. I'm sure you will find someone to give you info on the recovery time. Best of luck to you, and I wish you pain relief soon!!! :)
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  • Thanks for all your support! I have been looking at other people's experiences and I am very optimistic! Just nervous about another large incision (will be S1-L2).
    My doctor says it has a 70%-80% success rate of relieving the type of nerve pain I have.
    Some people say I am too positive, but that is better than the alternative!
    Hope insurance approves this quickly!
  • I had all my hardware removed 7 months after my fusion, due to ongoing pain caused by one screw.

    The surgery is major but recovery is usually a lot quicker. I was in hospital for 2 days following surgery and back at work (sedentary job) after 2 weeks. As the surgeon cuts through all the same muscles you still have a lengthy recovery period ahead, in regard to building core muscle strength, but hopefully you will be rid of all nerve pain, as I was.

    You can click on 'My spine story' in my signature (below) for more information.

    Good luck and keep us posted :)
    Keep positive!

    Bruce old timer here and ex-moderator

  • :)
    Surgeon got me in on a cancellation - got emergency approval from insurance with no fight this time.

    They said I should walk out of the hospital (after 2 days or so) with no cane or walker. Looking forward to getting my right foot back - foot drop on & off, can't move my toes but they feel like I just kicked a door!

    Will update and let everyone know if it works!
  • Good luck with your surgery! Wow, won't that be wonderful to walk out of the hospital on your on without a walker or a cane?

    Let us know when you can how things went.

    Kin :) :) :)
  • good luck tuesday and our prayers will be with you, from reading your post it seems that the Dr may of had a few screw's loose, to put you through all that..........stay positive and keep us up to date...... get yourself a grabber if you dont have one im sure there will be no blt
    god bless
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