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Hardware Removal

AMBULATORY CARE:

What you need to know about hardware removal:

Hardware removal is surgery to take out devices used to hold your broken bones together while they heal. These devices may include pins, screws, plates, or wires. You may need hardware removed because you have pain or an infection. Hardware in young children may need to be removed to prevent problems with bone growth.

Internal Fixation Device

How to prepare for hardware removal:

  • Your surgeon will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of surgery. Arrange to have someone drive you home after surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all the medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine before surgery, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of surgery.
  • Tell your surgeon about all your allergies. Tell him or her if you had an allergic reaction to any medicine, including antibiotics or anesthesia.

What will happen during hardware removal:

  • You may be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep during surgery. You may instead have local anesthesia to numb the area where you are having surgery. You will be awake during the surgery if you have local anesthesia. You may also receive medicine to keep you calm and relaxed during surgery.
  • An incision will be made near the location of your hardware. Your surgeon may use the original surgery incision or create a new incision.
  • Your surgeon will use small tools to loosen and remove the hardware. Scar tissue that formed around the hardware may also need to be removed. The hardware may be removed or replaced with new hardware.
  • The incision will be closed with stitches. A bandage will cover your incision to help prevent infection.

What to expect after hardware removal:

  • Take deep breaths and cough 10 times each hour. This will decrease your risk for a lung infection. Take a deep breath and hold it for as long as you can. Let the air out and then cough strongly. Deep breaths help open your airway. You may be given an incentive spirometer to help you take deep breaths. Put the plastic piece in your mouth and take a slow, deep breath, then let the air out and cough. Repeat these steps 10 times every hour.
  • Medicines may be given to prevent or treat pain, nausea, or an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Physical therapy (PT) may be started. PT can help you learn to move safely while you heal. You may also increase range of motion and build strength. PT may continue after you leave the hospital.

Risks of hardware removal:

  • Nerves, ligaments, and muscles may be damaged. Your bone may fracture again while the hardware is being removed. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. This may become life-threatening.
  • You may still have pain, even after the hardware is removed. You may have trouble going back to your usual activities. You may have a permanent scar.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You suddenly feel lightheaded and short of breath.
  • You have chest pain when you take a deep breath or cough. You may cough up blood.

Call your doctor if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • Your stitches come apart.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You have a fever and chills.
  • You have a cough or feel weak and achy.
  • Your surgery area is red, swollen, or draining pus.
  • You have more pain and swelling, even after you take medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Medicines:

You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Self-care:

  • Rest often while you recover. Ask when you can return to your usual activities.
  • Use support devices as directed. Crutches, a cane, or a walker will help you move around and decrease your risk for falling. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about how to use your support device.
  • Go to physical therapy (PT), if directed. PT can help you learn to move safely while you heal. You may also increase range of motion and build strength.
  • Keep the procedure area clean and dry. When you are allowed to bathe, carefully wash the area with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty. Check the area for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus.

Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:

You will need to return to have the surgery area checked or stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.