We get asked all the time if the screws in the foot will set off metal detectors and the answer is simply no. Think about this, there are metal buttons on your pants, and zippers and those don’t set it off either. The fact is, those machines are designed to measure quantity. A screw or even a plate is not enough metal to set it off. Additionally, some machines look for objects on the surface of a person and therefore do not detect the metal buried within. Now, maybe large joints are different like knees or total hips I don’t have an answer for that but for the sake of your foot surgery, you don’t need a card to explain yourself to TCA.

Another question we get is when should the screws be taken out? This answer is not so simple. They may never need to but there are definitely conditions that would warrant their removal. For example, in children, they should come out before their growth plates close. A screw across your ankle joint should eventually come out, but I recommend waiting until one is fully through the healing phase. This could be anywhere from 6-12 months. Your bunion screw could come out in 4-6 months. But you could also just potentially leave that one. I have had a patient come in and her screw was backing out since her bunion surgery a year ago by another surgeon. We did just go ahead and take it out in the office. So, there would be another reason to remove a screw, if it’s coming out of your foot. Other reasons are hardware that is painful, or broken, or loosened, and of course, if it's infected. I had a patient who presented to my office with a draining toe. An x-ray revealed one of the two screws in the toe was definitely infected. I could tell because it had dark pitting all around the tip. This one needed to come out. And in the operating room, it came out easily. There did happen to be another screw so thinking cross contamination, I decided to go after this one as well. It would not budge. Infected hardware gets loose. Stable hardware can stay especially knowing this patient would be getting 8 weeks of IV antibiotics. And lastly, if the surgeon crosses a joint. There are some visual limitations in the operating room sure but if we realize this later in the post-op period, a quick replacement is better than keeping it long and having continued damage and pain. Now bear in mind sometimes we fix hammertoes with a metal wire across the joints but this does get pulled out in the office in 4-6 weeks.

7 Comments
"Thanks for writing. Sorry about your situation. Hardware does, unfortunately, break sometimes. Whether or not to remove and/or replace it is based on whether it is hurting or impinging on vital structures. If it causes no pain or disability, and the toe is functioning well, it does not hurt to leave it in. If the fractured hardware has allowed the toe to drift out of position, or is causing any pain, then it should be removed. Good luck." Scott L. Schulman, DPM Indiana Podiatry Group "Thanks for writing. Sorry about your situation. Hardware does, unfortunately, break sometimes. Whether or not to remove and/or replace it is based on whether it is hurting or impinging on vital structures. If it causes no pain or disability, and the toe is functioning well, it does not hurt to leave it in. If the fractured hardware has allowed the toe to drift out of position, or is causing any pain, then it should be removed. Good luck." Scott L. Schulman, DPM Indiana Podiatry Group
by Scott Schulman February 7, 2020 at 09:14 AM
I had Hallux Valgus surgery done on my left foot about 2 months back in India. Since last 2 days the big toe moved back towards the next toe. But big toe is not over the next toe, as was the condition before surgery. In the X rays we took, it is cler that the 2.5 mm thick titanium plate the surgeon put on the first metatarsal is fractured. My surgeon says that there is no problem with that and it will pain for a few days and the pain will eventually go away. And I should start my normal walking and walking exercise. I am a bit confused . Kindly advise me what should I do? I am coming back to the USA after 15 days. Thanks
by ketan mistry February 6, 2020 at 11:09 PM
I had foot surgery 9 months ago. The pain and swelling never stopped in two areas. Urgent care took an X-ray that clearly showed the bones in the small toe osteotomy were not together; nothing was holding them together (8 months post surgery). Another X-ray showed that the metal plate over the bunionectomy had broken along with the bone itself. Any thoughts on this?
by Sydney December 22, 2019 at 01:02 PM
Hmmm....well to start since I have never seen you, I would get an Xray to find out exactly what surgery you had and if it's healing. Or you could go back to the original surgeon and have them get updated X-rays. All in all, if the site is healed, there is a potential to remove any residual metal you have in there, I hope this helps. and remember we have 6 locations throughout Indiana
by Dr. Alisha Jones August 12, 2019 at 11:43 AM
After months since the surgery the metal plate and screws over the large joint of big toe are so painful and fear I will not be able to continue career as a firefighter. There is no flex in the big toe. Can’t run or get foot into fire boots. This was definitely not explained in the prep. Can it come out? What an I do?
by J. Dawson August 11, 2019 at 09:09 PM
Thanks, We try to educate and help our Foot Care Patients.
by Dr Scott Schulman March 23, 2019 at 01:22 PM
That is so helpful article. I think it will be more helpful. Please continue to write for us. Thanks metal detector
by metal detector March 23, 2019 at 12:42 PM
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