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Old 29th September 2012, 06:44 PM
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Karen N K9s Karen N K9s is offline
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Question What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Hi. I had one of the first Harrington rods put in my spine for double major scoliosis in 1972. It's been 40 years and now I'm in excruciating pain. My specialist has diagnosed me with neurogenic claudication from complications of the harrington rod and/or hook. He is suggesting harrington rod removal surgery or clipping the rod. I have heard horror stories about harrington rod removal, with most saying it's much harder to take out than put in. Has anyone out here had their harrington rods removed and if so, what is the surgery like? What was your pain level? Recovery time??? etc. Any info will help me decide whether or not to agree to the surgery.
thank you,
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Old 29th September 2012, 06:48 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Good luck! I have had a few drs who were scared of such a surgery basically say they wouldn't touch it unless it was poking out of my skin. From reading here and online I think having a good dr makes the biggest difference for this!!
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Milwakee brace 2 years stem-stern. Harrington rods in '95 to stop curvature- not really straighten it like they said the surgery would! T curve was ~52, L ~40 deg. Have had a very active 15 years not letting anything stop me, but in my early 30s the slipping disks and pain/nerve pain are getting old and I am looking at a revision surgery- or something!!
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Old 29th September 2012, 07:00 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Hi Karen,

It's often very difficult to remove Harrington Rods that have been in place for many years, because the fusion can cause bone to grow over the rods and cause them to become embedded. On the other hand, Harringtons were designed to fix to the spine only at the ends of the rod, so for some people it is relatively easy to get them out - it's just a case of detaching them at the top and at the bottom. Only your surgeon can tell you how things stand in your particular case.

I had a 1986 rod removed in 1994 and replaced with another Harrington, and they got that first rod out relatively easily. I asked to have the 1994 removed during another surgery I had in 2008, however, and it was not possible because it was so embedded. They would have had to break bone to get it out, and it wasn't worth the risk.

Clipping the rod is a much easier procedure in cases where rods are difficult to remove. I would explore this option with your surgeon if I were you.

Good luck!

Toni xx
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37 years old, diagnosed with infantile idiopathic scoliosis at 6 months old with curves of 62(T) and 40(L) degrees. Casting and Milwaukee braces until surgery at 10 - ant release/pos fusion T1-T12, halo traction. Post op cast and then TLSO. Further surgery at 18 (ant release/pos fusion extended to L3 to include lumbar curve, costoplasty) and 25 (another costoplasty). Fusion extended to L4 at 33 (XLIF with 4 pedicle screws and two short rods). Pre-op curves: 76(T) and 70(L). Post-op curves: 45(T) and 35(L). Diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome aged 34; scoliosis almost certainly due to this rather than being idiopathic.
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Old 29th September 2012, 07:11 PM
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Karen N K9s Karen N K9s is offline
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Hi, ty for your answer. When you had the rod removed, did they have to make such a long incision as when they put it in? How long of a recovery did you have? Right now, the rod is causing my spinal canal to narrow, flat back syndrome, DDD, stenosis, etc. Most days I feel like I'm standing with my finger in an electrical outlet, seriously. My facet joints are swollen and I get left leg numbing, severe burning pain in my groin, lower back and down my legs. I can't sit, walk, stand......it's bad. I live alone and I'm really worried about how I will be able to take care of myself during and after the surgery. I don't have a clue what to expect. I'm really scared that they will make me worse if I let them operate. I can barely stand the pain now and I have no quality of life at all. ty to anyone who can tell me what to expect, what the exact procedure is, and if it reduced their pain. Hugs to you all.

Last edited by Karen N K9s; 29th September 2012 at 07:13 PM. Reason: added more info
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Old 29th September 2012, 07:17 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Toni is probably a better guide than I am here. I don't think my experiences are especially representative or necessarily very helpful, however here goes.

I had a Harrington rod fusion in July 1970 (42 years ago!) and the rod removed 8 years later. I will say that for all of those 8 years I was conscious of the rod being there and quite definitely noticed the difference when it was removed, however I was never in pain from it - but I was only 22 when it was removed.

My removal surgery was very straighforward, the rod was cut in two to get it out and wasn't too emebedded, I was in for 5 days and back at work the following week.

Here it is, the two halves have been welded back together:

As I say, because the rod was removed so early I was probably lucky to avoid the problems you have had - and so my recovery time from the surgery may not be representative.

Good luck and stay in touch

Barbara
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58 years old, juvenile ideopathic scoliosis - thoracic curve with lumbar compensating curve. Fusion (T3/4? - L1) at age 14 with Harrington Rod after 3 years in Milwaukee brace, 1 year's bracing after, then rod removed 8 years after the initial surgery. Reviewed NOC, Oxford by Prof J Fairbank October 2010.
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Old 29th September 2012, 07:28 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Hi Karen,

When I had my 1986 rod removed it was as part of a much larger surgery to extend my fusion and to do a costoplasty (cosmetic procedure to lessen the appearance of my rib prominence), and I had the rod replaced with a far longer one. So, I'm afraid that I can't really offer advice as to what it is like to just have the rod removed. I was pretty battered about from that surgery but they did do a huge amount of work!

Bara's rod is the coolest thing ever Sadly, they don't allow you to take your old implants home with you these days, due to infection worries. I asked to have mine back in 1994, but they said they had to break it into several pieces to get it out, and then send all the pieces to be sterilised - it never made it back to me, which I felt sad about.

Toni xx
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37 years old, diagnosed with infantile idiopathic scoliosis at 6 months old with curves of 62(T) and 40(L) degrees. Casting and Milwaukee braces until surgery at 10 - ant release/pos fusion T1-T12, halo traction. Post op cast and then TLSO. Further surgery at 18 (ant release/pos fusion extended to L3 to include lumbar curve, costoplasty) and 25 (another costoplasty). Fusion extended to L4 at 33 (XLIF with 4 pedicle screws and two short rods). Pre-op curves: 76(T) and 70(L). Post-op curves: 45(T) and 35(L). Diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome aged 34; scoliosis almost certainly due to this rather than being idiopathic.
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Old 29th September 2012, 07:30 PM
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Karen N K9s Karen N K9s is offline
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Thumbs up Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

ty for your helpful reply. This pic is fascinating and horrifying at the same time. Such a barbaric looking thing to be in our bodies, lol.
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Old 29th September 2012, 07:57 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

If you have flatback, I think I would be concerned about a surgery that is only to remove or clip the rod. While this won't make the flatback any worse, it's more a case that if the flatback will need to be addressed surgically *anyway* then it's surely better to get the whole lot done in one go. The other thing is that if they are planning to do any kind of decompression surgery at the same time as the rod removal, then this generally doesn't seem to have a huge success in even putting off flatback revision surgery, let alone avoiding it altogether.

I'm sorry if that sounds really grim, but it's definitely representative of the overall experience of the women at the Flatback_Revised Yahoo group (http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Flatback_Revised/) which I would strongly suggest that you sign up at, to ask for their collective advice. It doesn't by any means mean that you are unfixable, far from it - but I'd hate to see you go through an essentially wasted procedure if it is the case that you need something more extensive done.

I really hope I haven't added to your worries!
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Diagnosed at 15 with 50 curve, but probably juvenile IS. Fused in kyphosis (by non-specialised ortho) with a/p surgery T10-L2 @ 21, posterior only revision surgery to correct kyphosis @ 29. Now 38 with further revision surgery and extension of fusion to sacrum required to correct residual kyphosis, restore lordosis and address spinal stenosis.
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Old 29th September 2012, 08:06 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

My Harrington has been in since 1986 i had the option of removal 4 years later but decided against it after having complications having it put there,but i have heard stories of them having bone grow around them and the surgeon must chip away to remove it,

i feel it may be possible as mine moves about at the bottom and makes scraping sounds so is loose despite being there for so long,but yes ugly things to have inside us i agree!
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Old 29th September 2012, 08:57 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

I love seeing your Xray, Sparkles - I don't have any of mine with the rod in - however it was across my thoracic curve too but slightly more 'upright' than yours.

If we are going with barbaric though - you have to go a long way to beat spending 4 years strapped in a Milwaukee!

B
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58 years old, juvenile ideopathic scoliosis - thoracic curve with lumbar compensating curve. Fusion (T3/4? - L1) at age 14 with Harrington Rod after 3 years in Milwaukee brace, 1 year's bracing after, then rod removed 8 years after the initial surgery. Reviewed NOC, Oxford by Prof J Fairbank October 2010.
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Old 30th September 2012, 01:35 AM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

My rod is at a slightly higher angle than is shown in this xray,if you look closer you will notice the top of the rod is not directly on the spine,the reason is it had come away from the spine and was wiggling about from side to side,it scraped away at my back bone for 3 weeks until it decided to rip through the skin and muscle and show itself luckily i had a plaster supporting my back at the time,so it was placed back inside while i was in outpatients with no painkillers at all as they didnt want to disturb the plaster cast,to say it hurt is an understatment!

but your experience of a milwaukee sounds pretty bad too,i saw a patient in one while in hospital and i remember thinking of it like a suit of torture!
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Old 30th September 2012, 11:04 AM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

Yeah - but then again I was only made to lie flat for 3 months in the Milwaukee (in hospital) post fusion so we have all had different levels of torture to go through!

Unfortunately without us, they wouldn't have developed the improvements to the surgery they have now.

Or so I tell myself ...



B
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58 years old, juvenile ideopathic scoliosis - thoracic curve with lumbar compensating curve. Fusion (T3/4? - L1) at age 14 with Harrington Rod after 3 years in Milwaukee brace, 1 year's bracing after, then rod removed 8 years after the initial surgery. Reviewed NOC, Oxford by Prof J Fairbank October 2010.
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  #13  
Old 30th September 2012, 01:08 PM
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Default Re: What to expect of Harrington Rod Removal surgery

3 months i could not handle that torture i dont think,as a child in hospital i remember being told off for climbing on top of a table! my consultant came around the corner just in time to see me on top of the tallest table! so me keeping still never!!

hope treatments have improved as i may face further treatment in the future,i have been told its unavodable and i will need at some point,but i wont climb on any tables while there but after all i was only trying to reach a hight book shelf!

my consultant ended up moving the table out of the way,and to do that he had to move lots of other things such as chairs and stuff,he was not happy!

but yes 3 months keeping still you need a medal!
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