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Hardware: Does it hurt to remove the hardware?

OS make light of hardware removal. Until I lurked on this site I had no idea how much it was dreaded and how worried people are about it. As I have said elsewhere the framework of decision about a surgical operation is fundamentally the same for all ops. You need to understand what benefits are to be expected from the operation; you need to understand what the risks are and how likely you are to have a complication. Then you make up your mind whether the benefits are worth the risks. In most hardware operations the chances of having a permanent problem as a result of surgery is 1:50 or less. That is the average risk of infection in an elective operation; even then many infections don't cause permanent problems. Other complications of hardware removal surgery are much rarer.
If the fracture is healed then the removal of the hardware doesn't hurt. What hurts is the operation to expose the fixation which may be deep under the muscles. These muscles have to be split or elevated to get to the plate and take it out. As a result there will be some bleeding and swelling of the operation site which will last for 2 weeks or so. Then the healing process will knit everything together and you will be able to use the muscles gently again and gradually return to full strength.
If you have pain from the plate you should expect an immediate change. The pain from a plate like that is often dull and achy, nagging, tender, sore to lie on that side. After the op the pain will be sharp, like a cut (no surprise there!) but the aching pain will be better.
Myles Clough MD OS Jan 11 2002


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