What to Do If Spine Hardware Breaks in Los Angeles, CA

Screws, plates, and rods are among the common types of hardware patients may have inserted with various spine procedures, usually ones involving some type of fusion. While spine hardware is designed to be durable, there are times when the various parts that were inserted may become loose or break. The damage may occur when hardware naturally breaks down, or a break may be caused by excessive pressure on certain parts of the spine. Here’s what you can do if you think your spine hardware may no longer be in place.

Recognize Possible Symptoms Suggesting Broken Hardware

Most of the hardware used today for spinal surgery is made of some combination of plastic and strong metals like titanium. Even so, breakage does sometimes occur. The first thing to do is to recognize symptoms that may suggest your hardware is no longer providing support. Signs to look for include:

  • Sharp, sudden pain where you had your surgery
  • Increased discomfort in your back
  • Return of the symptoms you had prior to surgery
  • Numbness or tingling sensations in nearby areas such as legs, arms, and shoulders

See Your Surgeon to Determine If Your Hardware Is the Issue

The above symptoms sometimes overlap with ones that may be associated with other issues with your spine that weren’t corrected surgically. For this reason, it’s best to see your Beverly Hills spine surgeon to determine if an issue with your hardware is causing your symptoms. Even something as small as a single rogue screw could be enough to irritate muscles or nerve roots or trigger inflammation. Confirmation of hardware issues typically involves:

  • A thorough examination
  • X-rays to check hardware placement
  • MRIs or CT scans to determine if the damaged hardware has affected soft tissues

Have Revision Surgery to Correct Hardware Damage

There are no conservative treatments for pain due to broken, loose, or misplaced hardware. Revision surgery is often necessary to correct the issue. Depending on the extent of the damage and nature of the issue, corrective spine surgery may involve:

  • Replacing the broken hardware
  • Tightening hardware that’s loose but not damaged
  • Placing slipped hardware back into the correct position
  • Addressing any damage to tissues or nerves that may have been done by the broken or loose piece of hardware

Why Spine Hardware Sometimes Breaks

Instances of broken spine hardware are rare. However, there are things that can damage hardware. In some cases, a patient may experience a sudden trauma such as a car accident or hard fall that causes hardware to break. Hardware breakage may also result from:

  • A spine that’s unstable in other areas
  • A fusion that’s taking longer than expected to form
  • Hardware that wasn’t positioned correctly (also a rare occurrence)

If you do have spine hardware inserted, reduce the risk of it breaking or becoming loose by following your surgeon’s instructions. As your level of activity increases following your procedure, take proper precautions to avoid placing too much stress on the area where the hardware is inserted, which usually means avoiding excessive twisting or bending or wearing protective gear after being given the okay to play certain sports again. Being mindful of your weight and posture can also ease stress in areas where hardware is located.

Many procedures performed at The Spine Institute involve the use of hardware, including extreme lateral interbody fusion and transforaminal interbody fusion. Beverly Hills patients who need minimally invasive surgery can place their trust in Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an in-person evaluation.