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Date of last update: 10/01/2017.

Forum Name: Spinal problems and back pain

Question: Harrington Rod Fracture

 mrs_m90 - Sun Dec 06, 2009 9:29 pm

In 2005, I fractured 3 vertebrae and shattered one (my T12). I had a spinal hip fusion and had Harrington rods placed in my back. Recently, I have been having extreme back pain and went to my doctor. She took x-rays and found a fracture in one of the rods and a fracture in my T12. She has referred me out to ortho but they cant even give me a consult for another two weeks.
I was told by a family friend (who is a pain management doctor) that I will most likely have to have surgery and have the rod removed. I just want to know want I should expect. I have an upstairs apartment and am currently having problems getting up and down the stairs, due to the pain. Im also unable to bend over and tie my shoes or pick things up off the floor.
Will I have to be in a back brace? How long is the average recovery time? How long will I be in the hospital? I have no family out here so my mother is flying out to help out and I just want to be prepared.
 Dr.M.Aroon kamath - Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:58 am

User avatar Hi,

Management of rod fractures varies between spinal surgeons. Most believe that the clinical management of rod fractures must be individualized for each patient.

In the view of some of the spinal surgeons, in patients who have early rod fracture with total loss of correction and overlapping of the rod, re-instrumentation and fusion may be indicated.In patients with a rod fracture who have minimum or no loss of correction and minimum or no associated symptoms,removal of the rod is usually not indicated, even when there is an overlap of the rod ends. Overlap can result from rods slipping out of the hooks at either end. Unless symptoms occur, this is also not considered as an indication for rod removal.

There are some surgeons who advocate routine removal of the rods about an year after surgery (they routinely fuse a short segment + insert the rods) .It is their opinion that the spine becomes reasonably stable by this time and mobilization may be commenced to the advantage of the patient.

Some of the absolute indications sited for rod removal are
a) total loss of correction,
b) loss of correction in the thoracic area with anticipated pulmonary compromise, and
c) symptomatic pseudarthrosis with or without loss of correction.

As to how long one should immobilize following the initial
surgery(insertion of the Harrington rods) itself is controversial.The type of immobilization as well as the duration is highly variable. Therefore, for me to hazard an opinion as to how long your back will need to be immobilized following removal of the rods and the likely recovery time may not be appropriate.
Best wishes!

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