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.

13 Comments
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
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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