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How do the rods break?

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  • How do the rods break?

    I have read so many threads where Rods have broken. How on earth do these rods get broken?
    I had Harrington Rods back in 1976 when I was 16. I have never had any problems until now because my lower spine has twisted so they have removed the existing hardware and put in 2 new rods. My old rods are/were still in good shape. I am now wondering if I should worry about my new rods breaking?
    My surgery was January 11th this year.
    I'm doing great although I am worrying that the Stem Cell fusion won't knit properly because I'm 50 now and the bone is not A quality.

  • #2
    Hi Marian, I have rods since 2002 they are not H-rods, mine are stainless steel, I ask the same question when I read that they break, I do need revision surgery, but my rods are in good shape, now the surgery will be to correct sagittal imbalance.
    good luck Lu


    • #3
      Hi Marian..

      The process of rods breaking has been compared to paperclips breaking. When an area of the spine doesn't fuse, the spine is allowed to move in that one spot, over and over again, thousands of times every day. When the spine moves, the rod(s) also experience micro movement. Eventually, that movement causes the rod(s) to break.

      Never argue with an idiot. They always drag you down to their level, and then they beat you with experience. --Twain
      Surgery 2/10/93 A/P fusion T4-L3
      Surgery 1/20/11 A/P fusion L2-sacrum w/pelvic fixation


      • #4
        Linda explained it very well. Eventually the rods just take so much stress from an un-fused area that they break. I was once told that basically the art of fusion is a race against time. One of two things will happen: either the area fuses before the rods reach their breaking point and everything stays stable, or the area doesn't fuse fast enough and the rods break. Fortunately for most people the area fuses well before the rods get close to breaking.
        25 years old
        double 70+ degree curves before surgery
        Anterior on 11/11/08
        Posterior on 12/2/08 with titanium rods
        nearly perfect correction
        fused t-10 to pelvis
        with a hemi-vertebral osteotomy at L4

        Broke right rod at L4-L5 on 06/26/09
        Broke left rod on 10/24/09
        Revision surgery on 11/5/09 with vitallium rods
        Broke both rods again

        Had posterior than anterior revisions on 03/11 at the Twin Cities Spine Center
        Declared "FUSED" on 12/6/11


        • #5
          This info is helpful, thank you. Fierce - good luck to you for end of this month.

          I am hoping and praying that my fusion fuses and all goes well with this set of rods.



          • #6
            It's also my understanding that titanium rods are easier to "chink" when bending them for the PT's back, and that they are very hard to see but can lead to hairline fractures that ultimately break. Which is one more reason stainless is considered "gold standard" by a lot of orthopods.
            Female, age 38
            4 years of bracing, concluded at 42*upper/38*lower
            currently 64*upper/40*lower
            Fused T3-L4 on Feb 23 2011
            now 32*upper/18* lower


            • #7
              I wonder if they'll use titanium or steel for my son. Another question to wright down to ask. I also wonder if there's a difference in what they use for adults/teens. Anyone know?
              Son 14 y/o diagnosed January 20th. 2011 with 110* Curve
              Halo Traction & 1st. surgery on March 22nd. 2011
              Spinal Fusion on April 19th. 2011

              Dr. Krajbich @ Shriners Childrens Hospital, Portland Oregon



              • #8

                I don’t think that anyone here has had 316 stainless screws used. They usually use Titanium for screws. Titanium is the best “anti corrosive” selection, you can throw it in the ocean for 30000 years, and it will not rust or tarnish at all. Titanium’s are selected for ROV sub sea use over stainless, since salt water is so corrosive. Titanium’s also produce clear MRI results over 316 stainless.

                Rods can be either 316 stainless (surgical, VAR vacuum arc remelt) which is tough stuff BTW, or Titanium or Vitallium.....they also use Cobalt Chrome alloy rods, another very durable selection. Alloys are mixtures of elements, like cooking in the kitchen. Throw it in a pot, and heat. Refried beans are refried, VAR is re-melted. Same thing. LOL

                Rods generally break upon non-union. If fusion does not occur, any metal selection will break.

                You have probably seen “Peek” mentioned here. Peek rods are used for 1 or 2 levels only. They are molded, flexible and they will not break. It’s a thermoplastic sometimes used for spacers. I have peek spacers or cages in my back.

                You can ask your surgeon. The integrity of the hardware systems used today is fantastic.
                49 yr old male, now 63, the new 64...
                Pre surgery curves T70,L70
                ALIF/PSA T2-Pelvis 01/29/08, 01/31/08 7" pelvic anchors BMP
                Dr Brett Menmuir St Marys Hospital Reno,Nevada

                Bending and twisting pics after full fusion

                My x-rays



                • #9
                  Elisa, I think it depends on what the surgeon is most comfortable using/prefers. Same with what they use for the bone fusion (BMP, donor, allograft). My surgeon recommended allograft for me and I said I didn't want it - he was equally comfortable with donor bone and said he recs allo b/c "a lot of people are more comfortable using their own bone than donor but it takes 20 mins off surgery and reduces risk since there's no second incision, so no problem." Just as well since my surgery ran 2 hrs over!
                  Female, age 38
                  4 years of bracing, concluded at 42*upper/38*lower
                  currently 64*upper/40*lower
                  Fused T3-L4 on Feb 23 2011
                  now 32*upper/18* lower