Friday, March 15, 2013

Bionic No More... Just Screwed Up!



On March 4th, I went into surgery to finally get my left clavicle plate out, just a shade over three months after it went in along with 10 screws. 9 of those also came out with the plate but the doc kept one in that was inserted across the main fracture line. He thought it would be helpful to leave that one in instead of trying to dig it out. This screw will remain with me permanently. 

Actual clavicle plate and 9 screws that came out
So the big question is why did I get my plate out, and why after just 3 months? Insanity! Yes, to some extent, this is quite suboptimal. While my bone fractures have healed, taking the plate and screws out leaves 9 screw holes in the bone that need to fill in, a process that can take 3 months or longer. I have a greater susceptibility of breaking my bone again if I fall on it during this time

But the odds are not terrible. The doc's analogy is of a 2x4 with 9 screws inserted and then removed. Yes, there are holes in it and yes its not as strong as a solid 2x4, but its still a flippin 2x4. Absent a spectacular crash, I should be ok even in the next 3 months. 

But why take the risk, you ask? Well I had some complications. First, the plate plain and simple bugged me. Car seatbelts, backpacks, and pretty much anything on my shoulder bothered me. But more importantly, my surgery wound did not want to stay shut -- I could actually see my plate. Apart from the disgust factor, this was asking for an infection. The doc tried to close it in his office (a bloody process, mind you) but that didn't work so well. So he said we'd have to go in under anesthesia to re-close the wound. Hence the discussion of taking the plate out... 

Basically, I wanted the plate out because of reason #1 above. So the choice was to either go into surgery now and re-close the wound and then go into surgery again in 6 months or so to get the plate out. The alternative was to go in now and do both things in one go. One less surgery. One less possibility of not waking up from anesthesia. So the choice to me was obvious. 

Yes, I carry a marginally higher risk of breaking my bone again but I will be cautious and won't be jumping mountain bikes for some time, possibly ever. It would suck big time if I have to do this all over again

Part motivation for writing this blog entry is to provide some knowledge and experience base for those facing similar decisions. I couldn't find much objective analysis on google -- conversations and opinions were all over the place and rarely backed by medical advice. My doc thinks I'll be fine, and I trust him -- after all he is the #1 rated sports medicine doctor in the Washington DC area