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, children 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 the 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.

28 Comments
"So sorry to hear about your foot. However, it is great that you had almost 30 years of comfort and good position. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. Deforming forces continue to cause slow, progressive problems and reoccurrences of most structural problems. Please see a Podiatrist as soon as possible for new X-rays and a complete exam. He will tell you your options, both surgical and non-surgical, and help you make the best decision for you. Good luck. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Dr Schulman June 13, 2021 at 06:47 PM
I had a bunionectomy 30+ years ago. Evidently a bone was removed between my big toe and second toe. Now the big toe has moved away from the other toes and all shoes hurt my foot! The Podiatrist told me that her other patients tape their toes but that messes up my metatarsals then they go numb and my entire foot hurts. What can I do to correct this, oh the foot is now an inch longer than my other foot (shoe size issue).
by Patricia Carol Dunne June 12, 2021 at 08:19 PM
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by Shannon Barnett June 10, 2021 at 07:40 AM
Hi Pat, Sorry about your foot. Surgery does not always fix everything forever. You likely have a progression of the original problem, and you may indeed need additional surgery. Surgeons often use a metal plate to fixate the bones in the correct position. I DO think that you should see a Podiatrist for an exam and X-rays and a discussion of all treatment options. Good luck. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman June 7, 2021 at 09:35 AM
I had bunion surgery on left foot some 20 years ago. After several years my big toe started pulling out out and away from others. There is more than 1” width between the large toe and the next. I had corrective surgery about 10 years ago and doctor connected the big toe to bone from next toe. Now both toes are pulling out once again. It is very hard to wear shoes. They rub the big toe until I have a hard callous and break off or bruise the side of the nail bed. I was recently told I needed a metal plate under the toe to line it up again and to correct it any other way would not help. The toe will be stiff from then on but said I would not have a problem walking. I would appreciate your opinion . Also, i was told any other corrective surgery only be a temporary solution.
by Pat June 7, 2021 at 07:44 AM
Thanks for reaching out. I am sorry that you are having problems. If the screw is causing any potential pain, then it certainly can and should be removed. While nothing is impossible, it is highly unlikely that the screw is the cause of your other symptoms. That said, it will be interesting to see if you improve after it is removed.. I have had a few, very rare occasions of people relating a change in overall health/pain after hardware was removed, though there was never any "Formal" diagnosis or reason. I wish you the best of luck in finding the cause of your other symptoms. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman May 3, 2021 at 06:42 AM
I had bunion surgery over 20 years ago. One screw was place. I have had pain from my toe down the side of my foot I suspect the tendon. I had been sick a lot over the years with a diagnosis of leukocytosis and no one has figured it out. My question is if metal has been in this long, can it get into your soft tissue and spread. I have recently seen the surgeon and he is going to remove it because he said I was hurting because the screw in past the bone. I am just curious since I've had chronic infection and no one ever asked about metal, if that could be the cause. Once last year I got bad and had smudge and giant cells present with 30 wbc and even lactic acid high. Er thought it could be an implanted medical device-could a screw cause these issues?
by Christy Batson May 2, 2021 at 04:09 PM
Bunion surgery
by Christy May 2, 2021 at 04:01 PM
Hi Keri, I am happy to look at the X-Rays and give you an opinion based only on that, but for a true 3rd opinion I would need to see you. In general, it is uncommon for hardware to begin to hurt after 25+ years, but it could. 9 shots is a lot, depending on what was used. Taking out the hardware is always an option, but it may or may not be the underlying cause of your pain. Feel free to send the X-Rays and any other information from your most recent visits (What was the diagnosis and what was injected 9 times?) and I will see what I think. Thanks for reaching out. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman DPM March 29, 2021 at 06:20 AM
by Scott Schulman DPM March 29, 2021 at 06:20 AM
I had bunion surgery in 1994 I am now 54 years old and about a year ago started feeling pain like steeping in a marble left foot I have gone to 2 podiatrist first that actually did fix the bunion with a leave in screw and said I bruised amd it should get better did nothing secondpodiatrist took X-rays and said it possibly could be screw but wanted to try cortisone shots on foot and them has gave 9 shots in 2020 to numb nerve that hurt between big toe and second toe it still hurts he is not sure what is causing pain I need third option I have pics of X-rays he did feb 2020
by Keri March 28, 2021 at 08:44 PM
Thanks for writing. It does sound like your Orthopedist is correct, at least from your description and without seeing your foot and X-rays. Unless really painful or limiting, if your current toe position is acceptable, it does make sense to me to wait a little to let the bones heal in the correct position. At that time, a decision can be made to remove whatever hardware is causing a problem. I have seen hardware not be in a great position but also not hurt and not cause any future problems, and it can be left alone. I agree with waiting a little longer until the bones heal a little more, and then making a decision based on X-rays and position/pain at that time. Good luck. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Dr Scott Schulman February 12, 2021 at 02:11 PM
I had minimally invasive bunion surgery on a mild bunion right foot 8 weeks ago with 2 screws inserted. The right screw has shifted drastically and is laying next to, and almost overlapping, the left screw, causing my foot to "click" every time I take a step. Ortho doc says the "click" is the 2 screws rubbing together. He wants to wait 3 more weeks (to get to about 11 weeks healing time) and take another xray. He asked me to limit my activity until then (which I have been doing so anyway), and he also gave me a metal plate to insert in the bottom of my surgical shoe which I have still been wearing even though at 4 weeks he said I could try to wear a stiff athletic shoe. If the screw from the right shifts any further left he said he would advise removing the screws and inserting a steel plate along the bunion. My concern is this: is the screw that shifted even helping to hold the toe in place at this point? And if I am able to leave screws intact, what about the screws rubbing together? What will that do to my soft tissue surrounding the screws? I envision a life time of pain every time I try to go for a run, or any other type of cardio activity. Thank you.
by Lynn Adams February 12, 2021 at 12:13 PM
Sorry to hear about the broken plate. As a general rule, if it is causing pain or protruding or in or near a joint where it could cause additional damage, then it makes sense to remove it. However, if the bone has healed, and the plate is not causing any problems or likely to, then you can leave it in. Without seeing it or knowing specifically where the plate is, it is hard to recommend anything. That said, IF it does need to come out, there is rarely any urgency, and it can be done at a later date.. As an aside, removing hardware is usually pretty easy and does not take long to recover from. Good luck. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman February 10, 2021 at 06:10 AM
I had a bunionectomy the week before Thanksgiving 2020 and my surgeon installed a titiaim plate on .y big toe bone and I went back 15 days after the surgery to get the stitches out along with x- rays and found out the titanium plate cracked in half so 3 Months later im dam near healed i guess, I really dont want to undergo another surgery what are my options i mean can it stay thst way and be ok or not!! If I was a patient of yours what would u suggest or do?? Please let me know
by Anthony KIERNAN February 9, 2021 at 05:42 PM
Please check with your surgeon. That said, Lapiplasty is very extensive surgery, and swelling for 3+ months is not uncommon. I would continue to follow your surgeon's instructions. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman DPM December 31, 2020 at 10:18 AM
Lapiplasty 7 weeks ago and the area where the titanium plates were placed are very swollen and painful. Will this go away or is my body not liking the new metal plates. It is shaped like a square, I am still icing and had to get larger shoes to get my fat foot into them.
by Marlo Repeta December 30, 2020 at 11:46 AM
So sorry you are having this problem. Without a full examination, it is difficult to offer advice. If you have hardware in your foot, it is possible that it is causing an allergic reaction, but not very likely or common. There could also be a skin/dermatological condition. This sure needs to be examined by a Podiatrist and/or Dermatologist. X-rays to see what is happening with the bones and hardware since the surgery and a possible skin biopsy to see if there is anything else causing this. Good luck. Scott L. Schulman, DPM
by Scott Schulman DPM December 29, 2020 at 08:54 AM
I had bunion removal surgery 17 years ago. I have had non stop big toe itching, I continuously pop/crack/rub my big toe against my right heel, and peel the thickened skin that grows on the top of my toe. Its a constant dull sometimes ache that I feel I need to rub. It's addictive. Yet very sensually satisfying so to speak. It's weird I know. I have rubbed so much over the years, I have created a quarter sized callus on the back of my right heel and peeled so much skin off my left big toe, its off color. It's white. I peel it raw to the skin-skin sometimes that it bleeds. I want to stop. I thought it was scar tissue underneath, used to have ingrown toenail on that toe as well. What do I do?
by R.Mporr December 28, 2020 at 08:25 PM
Thanks for asking. Most Surgeons feel that any hardware related to surgery is OK to leave in unless it becomes painful. Sometimes a screw will loosen and become prominent and painful. In that case, it would need to be removed. The bones have long ago completely healed, so the screws are not really needed anymore. They do not weaken over time. If they are not causing any problem, they are fine to leave in. Scott L. Schulman, DPM Indiana Podiatry Group
by Scott Schulman September 8, 2020 at 09:11 AM
I had bunion surgery when I was 17 I’m 39 now I opted to leave the screws or pins in my foot I have 1 by my big toe and 2 crisscrossing on the inner foot. I was wondering if these screws/pins become weak over time?
by Jamie September 5, 2020 at 03:43 AM
"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
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by metal detector March 23, 2019 at 12:42 PM
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