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Removing metalwork

3-minute read

This page will give you information about removing metalware. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is metalware used for?

Metalware includes plates, screws, rods and wires. These are specially made from stainless steel or titanium for the following operations on bones.

  • fixing a broken bone in position while it heals
  • joining bones to remove an arthritic joint
  • changing the shape of a bone

What are the benefits of surgery?

The following are the main reasons for having your metalware removed.

  • to reduce any pain or discomfort
  • to help treat an infection around the metalware
  • to prevent the metalware from disappearing inside the bone
  • to prevent the metalware from getting in the way if you need another operation later

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Pain or discomfort from your metalware can sometimes be helped by taking painkillers, avoiding pressure over the metalware and keeping warm when the weather is cold.

If you have an infection around the metalware, you can sometimes keep it under control by taking antibiotics.

Illustration showing plates fixed to the bone with screws.
Plates fixed to the bone with screws.

What does the operation involve?

Various anaesthetic techniques are possible.

The operation usually takes 30 minutes to an hour.

Your surgeon will usually remove the metalware through the same cut used to put it in. Small screws or wires can sometimes be hard to find and your surgeon may need to use a larger cut and x-rays. Even larger pieces of metalware can be hard to find and remove if they are covered with scar tissue or bone.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • unsightly scarring of your skin
  • difficulty passing urine
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung

Specific complications of this operation

  • failure to remove all metalware
  • damage to nerves nearby
  • weakening of the bone
  • severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of your arm or leg

How soon will I recover?

You should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

Spend most of the time during the first week with your arm or leg raised so that the swelling settles.

You may be given exercises to help get your joints moving.

Your surgeon will tell you when you can return to normal activities.

It can take 6 months or longer to recover completely from surgery.

Summary

Metalware is often used in operations to help bones to heal. Once your bones have healed, your surgeon may recommend removing the metalware to reduce or prevent any problems it may cause.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

The operation and treatment information on this page is published under license by Healthdirect Australia from EIDO Healthcare Australia and is protected by copyright laws. Other than for your personal, non-commercial use, you may not copy, print out, download or otherwise reproduce any of the information. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you. Medical Illustration Copyright © Medical-Artist.com.

For more on how this information was prepared, click here.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2020


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