Corrosion of Harrington rod in idiopathic scoliosis: long-term effects

Eur Spine J. 2018 Jul;27(Suppl 3):298-302. doi: 10.1007/s00586-017-5183-7. Epub 2017 Jun 17.


Purpose: Metal implants have been used to treat adolescent idiopathic scoliosis since the 1960s. Only recently, however, it has the issue of metal-bone breakdown secondary to metal corrosion in situ come to light, raising concerns of possible long-term complications from the resulting metallosis and inflammation of spinal tissues. We present a case of a patient with neurological deficit, pain, and disability with Harrington rod in place for over 30 years, to bring attention to the issue of bio-corrosion of metal implants and its effect on human tissue. We call attention to the need for protocols to better diagnose and treat these patients.

Methods: We provide a complete review of the history and clinical manifestations as well as serum metal, X-ray, and CT/myelogram test results.

Results: A 52-year-old female with spinal fusion and Harrington rod presents with pain, lymphedema, disability, and neurological deficits including thoracic outlet syndrome, hyperreflexia, peripheral muscle weakness and atrophy, hypertonicity, Raynaud's phenomenon, and balance and gait abnormalities. Serum chromium levels were elevated (26.73 nmol). X-rays showed no evidence of rod breakdown. Serial X-rays can demonstrate subtle corrosive changes but were not available. Adhesive arachnoiditis was diagnosed via CT/myelogram.

Conclusion: We hypothesize that bio-corrosion is present in this case and that it is associated with intraspinal metallosis. Trauma secondary to a motor vehicle accident, as well as arachnoiditis, and their possible effects on this case are outlined. Challenges in proper diagnosis and management are discussed.

Keywords: Corrosion; Metal ions; Metallosis; Scoliosis; Spinal implants.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Arachnoiditis / diagnosis*
  • Arachnoiditis / etiology
  • Chromium / adverse effects
  • Chromium / blood
  • Corrosion
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal Fixators / adverse effects*
  • Middle Aged
  • Myelography
  • Prosthesis Failure / etiology*
  • Scoliosis / surgery*
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects
  • Spinal Fusion / instrumentation
  • Spinal Fusion / methods
  • Spine / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Chromium