What are the long-term concerns with Harrington rods?

WhyKid had surgery to minimize a congential scoliosis in June. He had a 59 degree curve, a butterfly vertebra and a hemi-vertebra, as well as an extra rib on his left side. The surgery went very well. It was an anterior and posterior approach (both in the same procedure), a rib was removed, vertebrae were fused, rods were put in place and a few wires, screws, etc.

He has two visible shoulder blades for the first time in his life. Yay!

But we’re nearly 6 months away from the surgery now, and he still has considerable pain. The pain isn’t in his back, but in the front - the lower half of his left ribcage. The skin here is numb (a nerve was likely severed during surgery) but he says there’s a “deep ouch.” We’ve seen the surgeon, done further x-rays, they can find nothing wrong. But it still hurts. He also has pretty severe left leg and knee pain, which I can only surmise is because his posture and gait has changed so dramatically that his body’s still adjusting. Plus, he’s a few months shy of 12, so it may be those “growing pains” I remember so fondly.

So, I’ve been to a doctor, I will continue going to a doctor, I am not using a message board as a substitute for medical care. But I would like to hear from Dopers who have gone through this, or known those who have, or been doctors with patients with Harrington rods and spinal fusion surgery. What’s the long term outlook? Is unexplainable pain like this normal? Will it last forever?

Also, my dad had a knee replacement surgery two years ago, and every time he gets an infection (like a sinus infection, bad “cold”, etc.) his doctor puts him on antibiotics. He says there is a danger of bacteria binding to the hardware in his knee and causing an abcess. No one’s mentioned this to me as a danger for my son, but he certainly has lots of hardware in his back. What’s the Straight Dope?

(IANAD, but I am a biomedical engineer)

You say the pain is the lower half of his ribcage, so it’s probably not the rod that causing it as much as the lack of the rib. I mean, this kid had an extra rib for over 11 years, and now it’s gone! Imagine if osmeone took a piece of out you you’ve haf your whole life, don’t you think your body would miss it? There is a chance of a chronic problem developing from this, such as chronic infection of inflammation, but after 6 months I would expect there to be more signs of it than just a “deep ouch.” As to the legs, you’re theory about the body getting used to the new gait is a possibility, but also remember the sciatic nerve runs down the back into the legs, and it might also be in a new position, or possibly getting pinched or something by the implant.

As to the second part of the OP, your father is an older man, I assume. If your child is about 12, as you say, then he probably has a very healthy immune system, wheras an older gent’s would not be so good. Therefore, the doctor might assume that your son’s immune system could be better equiped to handle the situation than your dad. In addition, take a look at the knee. It moves more than a back joint, and also has more open space for an abscess to form, so that might also be a factor.

Thanks for the reply. I also thought it was the missing rib, but his doctor didn’t seem real responsive when I asked him. Frankly, he’s not real responsive about a lot of things - great, great surgeon, with the bedside manner of a carp. (I’d rather that than a great personality and a spaz with a knife, though!)

So there’s no general “if there’s hardware, use antibiotics whenever sick”. That’s good to know. First, because of course I don’t want to load him up with antibiotics for every sniffle, but also because it seemed like quite a large detail for all the doctors, nurses and other staff to leave out.