Jared A. Crasto, Richard A. Wawrose, William F. Donaldson

December 2020, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 183 - 187 Case Report Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06591-5

First Online: 12 September 2020


Removal of hardware procedures following posterior spinal fusion is most commonly performed for hardware irritation without overt infection. It is imperative that surgeons realize that serious complications may arise from this procedure. The purpose of this report is to report a case of a pneumothorax that developed in a thoracolumbar removal of hardware case that resulted in a patient death.


Retrospective review of a patient’s medical record and imaging.


A 74-year-old patient with a history of T4-10 anterior discectomy and fusion with rib autograft and T4-L2 posterior fusion underwent a removal of hardware procedure for delayed surgical site infection. During the procedure, the tip of the bolt cutter jaw broke and entered the pulmonary cavity leading to a pneumothorax. The patient developed pneumonia 1 month postoperatively and passed away.


This case report highlights one of the rare but potential complications of spinal removal of hardware surgery. It is essential that surgeons are aware of the possibility of pulmonary complications during thoracolumbar removal of hardware cases so that they may fully counsel their patients on the potential risks.

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