Loss of Sagittal Plane Correction After Removal of Spinal Implants

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Study Design.A retrospective review of a clinical series was performed.Objectives.To evaluate the incidence of adult patients who experienced spinal collapse after spinal implant removal after a long spinal arthrodesis, and to assess the various factors that may influence the likelihood of collapse after implant removal.Summary of Background Data.Published reports describing the benefits or complications of spinal implant removal do not exist. Spinal implant removal, often considered a benign procedure, is even required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for certain implants.Methods.The medical records and radiographs of 116 consecutive adult patients with long posterior instrumented fusions (>5 segments) were reviewed. The information obtained included original diagnosis, patient age, number of previous surgeries before implant removal, levels of anterior and posterior fusion, time from fusion to implant removal, time from implant removal to failure, and reason for hardware removal. Radiographs also were assessed including scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis measurements before implant removal, after hardware removal, after failure, and after revision surgery.Results.Of 116 patients, 14 underwent spinal implant removal. Most of these patients reported prominent implants either proximally in the thoracic spine or distally in the ilium (Galveston technique). Of these 14 patients, 4 experienced increased pain and collapse after implant removal despite thorough intraoperative explorations demonstrating solid fusion.Conclusions.Spinal implant removal after long posterior fusion in adults may lead to spinal collapse and further surgery. Removal of instrumentation should be avoided or should involve partial removal of the prominent implant.

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