View Full Version : In Pain...from a broken rod?

11-01-2004, 12:41 PM
Hi there. I am 29 years old and had scoliosis surgery when I was 13. I had herrington rods put in but that is about all I know. I don't know anything about was was fused. Anyway, when I was 15 I broke my rod in a go-cart incident, but didn't relize it was broken until I went back to my surgeon for a check up at age 18. The rod is broken approximately 4 to 5 inches from the base of my neck and the top piece is pointing toward my right side. Does that make sense?

I began having severe, stabbing-like pain about 5 years ago. The pain is around my right shoulder blade and when the pain comes on it is extremely difficult to move my right upper body. Mostly the pain is brought on by bending or twisting in a funny way. I can usually get rid of the pain by relaxing and slowly working the shoulder blade until the pain lets up.

I went to a doctor (not my original surgeon) about the same time the pain first appeared and he took an x-ray, told me the broken rod was not my problem and to continue excersizing. At that point in time I was doing aerobics daily. I was not happy with this message. I want to know "why it hurts" and "how to stop it completely."

Since then, I am no longer able to excersize for fear of my back getting "caught" so to speak. I seems like this pain comes on more frequently, and I am no longer able to "work it out." For instance, two days this week I woke up in severe pain... it even hurt to breath! All I could do was lay flat in bed on my back... and it still hurt, but this was the most comfortable position... I couldn't sit, or stand, or anything.

I go on the 10th of this month for an office visit with my original surgeon, but am trying to do some research on my own beforhand. Has anyone out the had a broken rod, or experienced pain like mine? If so, what was it's cause and what was done about it?

11-01-2004, 01:31 PM
Hi Tric...

It's impossible to break a Harrington rod by trauma. Rods break because there is at least one area of non-fusion. Non-fusion can definitely cause pain. If your original surgeon doesn't offer a solution, I'd like to encourage you to see another surgeon. Where in Texas are you?


11-01-2004, 03:38 PM
Please forgive my ignorance, but what do you mean by non-fusion?

And... do you know what type of treatment may be recommended? I have tried Aquatherapy, physical therapy, and massage... all very expensive. Do you think that a revision would be recommended at this point?

I am in East Texas. I am about 2.5 hours away from the Medical Center in Houston. That is where my original surgeon in located as well as the surgeon I saw about 5 years ago. I was not very impressed with the later.

11-01-2004, 08:07 PM
Hi Tric...

Fusion is the purpose of scoliosis surgery. It takes place when morselized bone is placed so that it bridges the space between vertebrae. The hardware is implanted simply to hold the spine in place while fusion takes hold. If for some reason, fusion doesn't happen between two vertebrae, the rod will bend very minutely at that spot, until it finally breaks. It's often demonstrated by bending a paperclip back and forth until it breaks. Does that make sense?

If it's not too far, and if your insurance agrees, I'd highly recommend Dr. Mike LaGrone in Amarillo. You can do a search on his name on these forums to find others who have gone to him. He's very highly regarded, especially by patients who need revision surgery. His website is http://www.scoliosismd.com. In addition to being an excellent surgeon, he's a really nice and very caring man.

What treatment would be recommended would only be a guess on my part. I'm not a medical professional. But, assuming that the problem is only one area of non-fusion, I'm guessing that a good surgeon would recommend that your implants be removed and that you'd have a one level fusion.

Best of luck getting some answers and a quick solution to your pain.


11-09-2004, 08:29 PM
I have never had a broken rod before. i had surgery at age 16, i'm now 27 years old and expericing extreme pain. my pain stats in my neck on down my spine,across my shoulders. my neck gets so stiff till i can't hold it down, up, left or right, i have bad headaches and oh my arms hards and gets so weak most of the time i don;t even know it's on my body. it's like carry a died limb around. i have been to two doctor one of which is the dr. who performed my surgery, they have done mri's and ct scans have say they have all come back normal. but the pain i experience is horrible and the doctors just don't understand. are you all able to work with these problems? i have been off work since 10/04/04, and the dr. says its up to me if i want to tack the chance of going back with all the pain and maybe even more pain. If you all are still working how do you cope with pains? And if not working, what type of financial assistance do you get if any such as SSi Disability? I hope that's not being to nosey of personal.

11-11-2004, 09:41 AM
I went to see my surgeon yesterday and he took x-ray's. It seems the cause of my problem is the hardware. The top of the rod is embedded in muscle tissue thereby causing pain. I am scheduled to have the rod removed in January.

I have been lucky so far in that the pain is not so bad that I am unable to work; however, in the past month I have had to miss several days of work because of pain. It seems like the pain has worsened much like you describe. I wake up in the morning in pain, I can't move... not even an arm or leg without intense pain, I can't sit, stand or walk. This is what prompted me to search for answers.

Like I said in my previous post... I saw a doc about 5 or so years ago when the pain began and the only thing he told me was to excersize. I tried chiropractic therapy, physical therapy, aerobics, water therapy, yoga and I am on daily anti-inflamatory medication. The only other alternative I was given was to see a pain management specialist, and they could give me injections for the pain. I am not interested in managing the pain. I want to find the source and solve the problem.

My surgeon seems fairly confident that the removal will solve all or at least most of my problem. He told me yesterday that he really can't be sure until the rod is removed, but I am going to keep a positive outlook.

I want to encourage you to seek out answers for yourself, and if you don't like the answer you get, get another opinion, and another until you find someone who can help you. I can not imagine going through the rest of my life with this pain much less the intense pain you must feel. Please let me know what you find out and if I can be of any help to you... I will.


02-23-2005, 12:57 AM
I was researching back and read your post.
I hope you found some relief and a Dr to help.
You mentioned you are 2.5 hrs away from Houston Medical Center.
Could you not find a Dr you felt happy with there?
Also may I ask who did your first surgery and where?
I tried to send a private message to ask these questions but not sure how. So if you want to private me back I know how to read them.
My dtr had her surgery done in Houston also, and we are 2-3 hrs away. Thanks,kay
Linda is a great resource of Dr names.

02-23-2005, 01:14 PM
Hi there Mamakay!

I did have surgery on January 20, 2005 to have the rod removed and am feeling great! I still have some problems with muscle cramps - some of them haven't had to be used in years. But, that is minor compared to the pain I was in before surgery.
I also came back to work two weeks post op and started attending a water aerobics class as directed by my surgeon.

My surgeon is Dr. William Francis (713.554.0645 office) in the Houston Medical Center. He is my original surgeon, and perfomed my surgery in Houston when I was 11 - 19 years ago. My family lived in the area at that time. I now live in East Texas and could not find an orthopedic surgeon who would even deal with back problems. They just wanted to recommend pain management, but it my mind that was not an option for me. I wanted a SOLUTION to the problem.

Thanks for the post,

02-24-2005, 01:09 AM
I am glad you are better.
Was that area fused?
I know Linda said that is why a rod breaks bc it is not fused.?
I get confused and worried what lays ahead for my dtr.
That's so great you found someone to help (again).

02-24-2005, 09:05 AM
The area was indeed fused.
When he went in to take the rod out, that is one thing that he checked becuase neither of us, especially me, want the curvature to change and have to go in for more surgery.

02-24-2005, 12:24 PM
For the record, Dr. David Bradford at UCSF told me that it's difficult to know if an area is fused solid, even by examining it in surgery. If you have pain in a specific area of the fusion, I'd recommend that you request a tomogram. Dr. Bradford said that it doesn't pick up all non-fusions, but it does a better job than anything else.