Jacky (84.68.53.---) 5:52am Jul 28 2019
Hello if you considering removing hardware. Here is my experience.
My injury: broken leg and ankle in 2017 that needed 15 screws and two plates, ankle was shattered. I got on ok with hardware in, but my reasons for wanting removal were: still some swelling round my leg even after 2 yrs, I could feel the corner of the plate on my shin and I couldnít kneel, pain when running, limited range of ankle, numbness etcÖlots of small things really. I was always inclined to get the hardware removed anyway because there was so much in there. Iím 48 in UK.
The removal: 2 years after the injury. Surgeon said it would take 1 hour under general anaesthetic. Actually took 2 hours because he couldnít get some of the screws out (3 still in). [My hardware was implanted in a different country from removal. If this is your situation, your surgeon needs to have the exact specifications to have the right tools.]
The op weighed on me in the run-up for sure, especially because it was my decision alone so thatís a lot of responsibility. Surgeon/doctor unlikely to tell you what to do unless its an extreme case. In the op I got a nerve block on my leg as well as general anaesthetic. This made my lower leg and foot numb and unmovable until 48 hrs after the op. If I had understood that would be the effect I would have declined that.
The recovery: First few days I didnít go out the house, used crutches in the house. Leg was weak, not much pain except nerve pain Ė that tingling on and off burning sensation. Surgeon said I could weight bear immediately, but was told by nurses to not walk for first few days bc of wound. 2nd week I used walking cast outside the house, still felt pretty vulnerable (fear of refracture), life was awkward. Continued nerve pain, but not while sleeping. Got stitches out.
In 3rd week gained strength (walking with heel first rather than flat footed). My surgeon had said to wear the walking cast, but then also said I donít really need to. I decided to not wear it outside (I never wore it inside), but I used crutches, at first two, then one with hiking boots which have some ankle support. I used the crutches a bit for balance, but mostly to alert other people to be careful around me, gave me some security (I use public transport). 4th week, stopped taking my crutch outside and walking normally, nerve pain subsided.
I am now 3 months post op. There is still a little swelling and numbness around the scar and across the top of my foot and a bit of weakness compared to other leg, but not that different to what I had before the op. Iím doing physio for strengthening and scar massage to mobilise the inner scar tissue and hopefully release the tendons/nerves that are caught up in it. It may never get 100% better, but I know now at least itís not worse than when the hardware was in.
The upshot: No-one will tell you if you should do it or not, you take a risk for further nerve/tissue damage with another op and are basically bringing on short term re-trauma in the hope of long term gain. In my case, I am really relieved and pleased to have done it because it was on my mind so much and all of the small problems have gone except the numbness. Iím glad I wonít have to wonder anymore if it would be better without the hardware and can move on. Good luck with your decision!