In some cases, one surgery alone isn’t enough to fix a foot or ankle problem. It’s possible that the original surgeon made mistakes, or that the medical condition recurred after the surgery. One example is when complications occur with foot surgical hardware. A podiatrist in Sugar Land may need to remove surgical plates, screws, or rods because of these complications. During this revision surgery, the foot surgeon may also correct other anatomical problems.
Podiatrists differ in opinion as to whether surgical hardware should be routinely removed, even when it isn’t causing any problems. Once the area has healed, and the hardware has fulfilled its function, there’s no need for it to remain. Some foot specialists prefer to remove it preemptively before it potentially causes complications. Others prefer to leave surgical hardware in place, due to the risks inherent with subsequent surgery.
It isn’t possible for the surgical hardware itself to get an infection, as it isn’t living tissue. However, hardware can sometimes accumulate bacteria. It can then infect nearby bone or soft tissue. A post-surgical infection is more common among patients with the following risk factors:
- Intravenous drug use
- Immunocompromised due to medications or medical conditions
- The septic joint near the implanted hardware
- Hardware that partially exits the skin (pins or Kirschner wires)
Infections at the surgical site are one reason why a foot doctor would remove the hardware. During the revision surgery, debridement to remove the infection may be necessary.
Atypical Immune Response
Some patients are sensitive to certain metals, such as nickel, cobalt, and chromium. It’s possible to have an adverse immune response to surgically implanted hardware. It’s uncommon, but possible for metal hypersensitivities and allergies to result in the breakdown of bone tissue and the loosening of the hardware.
In some cases, revision surgery to remove the hardware is necessary because the original procedure failed to correct the problem. “Non-union” is the medical term for the incomplete healing of the bone after surgery. During the revision surgery, the podiatrist may need to stabilize the area further, such as by using bone grafts or different surgical hardware.