When can you remove screws from a prior surgery?

Many of the surgeries we do as orthopedic surgeons involve putting implants of some sort into the body. For broken bones, like a tibia fractures, we often insert rods, screws or plates. In this Ask Dr. Geier video, I answer the question of a reader who wonders when he can have the surgeon remove screws from his ankle.

Ruben asks:

Hi, doctor. Two questions:

I’m 28 years old, and it has been 13 months since my tibia/fibula fracture due to a car accident. I have two screws on the upper part of the tibia close to the knee, and two close to my ankle (they hold the rod in place). Only one screw bothers me. Is 13 months enough time to be able to take that one screw out?

I’m sure that this would be a simple day surgery, but will I be able to go back to work right away after taking the screw out?

Surgery to treat a tibia fracture often involves the surgeon placing a rod or nail down the center of the bone. We lock the rod at the top and bottom with screws to control rotation of the rod so that the fracture heals. Occasionally the locking screws can become proud and irritate the patient.

In this video, I talk about surgeries to remove screws, plates and other hardware, when surgeons typically like to do it, and what recovery of that procedure entails.

Also read:
Should you have hardware removed after your ankle fracture heals?
How do plates and screws help a broken bone heal?

X-ray of a tibial plateau fracture fixed with plates and screws