Surgical Technique: Simple Technique for Removing a Locking Recon Plate With Damaged Screw Heads

Department of Orthopaedics, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Sector-12, Chandigarh, India.
Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research (Impact Factor: 2.77). 12/2012; 471(5). DOI: 10.1007/s11999-012-2733-5
Source: PubMed


The introduction of locking plates in the treatment of periarticular fractures was a major breakthrough in orthopaedic evolution. Removal of these implants is extremely difficult as a result of cold welding and stripping of screw heads.

Description of technique:
A 31-year-old man had a schwannoma of the left C5-C6 nerve roots and upper trunk of the brachial plexus. One year before presentation he had undergone excision of the lesion through an approach using a clavicular osteotomy. The osteotomy had been fixed with a titanium locking recon plate. While surgically removing the implant, only one screw could be removed. The remaining five screws could not be turned owing to cold welding; repeated attempts at removing the screws damaged the screw heads. A large bolt cutter was used to cut the plate between the holes, and the resulting rectangular sections with the screws then were unscrewed from the bone.

Review of literature:
Limited literature is available regarding techniques for locking screw removal. These include using a carbide drill bit or diamond-tipped burr, high-speed disc, or conical extraction screw.

Not all centers have specialized instruments such as carbide drill bits to remove screw heads, but a large bolt cutter usually is available when screws cannot be unscrewed owing to cold welding. The technique of cutting is easily reproducible and does not require additional soft tissue stripping.

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Available from: Mandeep S Dhillon, Jun 04, 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction. The use of locking plate technology for anterior lumbar spinal fusion has increased stability of the vertebral fusion mass over traditional nonconstrained screw and plate systems. This case report outlines a complication due to the use of this construct. Case. A patient with a history of L2 corpectomy and anterior spinal fusion presented with discitis at the L4/5 level and underwent an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) supplemented with a locking plate placed anterolaterally for stability. Fifteen months after the ALIF procedure, he returned with a hardware infection. He underwent debridement of the infection site and removal of hardware. Results. Once hardware was exposed, removal of the locking plate screws was only successful in one out of four screws using a reverse thread screw removal device. Three of the reverse thread screw removal devices broke in attempt to remove the subsequent screws. A metal cutting drill was then used to break hoop stresses associated with the locking device and the plate was removed. Conclusion. Anterior locking plates add significant stability to an anterior spinal fusion mass. However, removal of this hardware can be complicated by the inherent properties of the design with significant risk of major vascular injury.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015