I’ve had all my hardware removed after T2-T10 fusion. Ask me anything.
I was in a car accident and fractured several vertebrae in my thoracic spine, including a T6 burst. Fused T2-T10 in 2012.
Pain was unbearable for years and never improved.
In 2017, I got all the hardware removed. Every single piece of it. Not replaced, not revised, completely removed. It IS possible.
Realistically, your pain will not disappear. You will still have bad days and worse days.
For me, though, on a good day my pain is about 50-80% less than it was. Even my bad days and awful days (which are fewer and farther between) are nowhere near the pain I experienced before getting the hardware removed.
I searched for a couple of years for info on hardware removal but the internet is not always your best option. This was my process:
I found a new primary care doctor within a large medical system (Houston Methodist) with several hospitals and clinics in my region, so that all my medical info would be portable and easily accessed by all my doctors.
I went to see her and said simply and clearly, “I want to talk to a surgeon about hardware removal.” She did some digging and referred me to an orthopedic surgeon. I told him the same thing, answered all his questions regarding my pain, and he agreed it was a viable option.
The insurance company insisted on a procedure to make sure it would work. I was referred to a pain management doctor who gave me numbing injections at every level of my fusion. I had to rate my pain levels for a week before and a week after.
They required a 30% reduction in overall pain levels to cover the surgery.
A few weeks later, I had the surgery! I was warned in advance that they might get in there and see that some or all of the hardware was still necessary, or would be unable to be removed. Luckily, that didn’t happen. All the hardware was removed. Surgery took about an hour!
It was absolutely the single best decision I have ever made. Am I still in pain? Absolutely. Is it anywhere near the kind of pain I experienced daily before the removal? Not even close.
Hardware can removed about a year after fusion, but there is a point at which it can no longer be removed. I recommend seeing a surgeon sooner rather than later. If your doctor says no, go see another!
Photo of my removed hardware is attached (yes, I got to keep it lol).