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Removing metalwork

4-minute read

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

What is metalwork used for?

Metalwork 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 metalwork removed.

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

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

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

If you have an infection around the metalwork, 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 metalwork 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 metalwork can be hard to find and remove if they are covered with scar tissue or bone.

How can I prepare myself for the operation?

If you smoke, stopping smoking now may reduce your risk of developing complications and will improve your long-term health.

Try to maintain a healthy weight. You have a higher risk of developing complications if you are overweight. Regular exercise should help to prepare you for the operation, help you to recover and improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

If you have not had the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, you may be at an increased risk of serious illness related to COVID-19 while you recover. Speak to your doctor or healthcare team if you would like to have the vaccine.

What complications can happen?

Some complications can be serious and can even cause death.

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • difficulty passing urine
  • blood clot in your leg
  • blood clot in your lung
  • chest infection

Specific complications of this operation

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

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain
  • unsightly scarring of your skin

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.


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


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 ©

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 2022

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