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What is a Titanium Rod?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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A titanium rod is a rod made of titanium; the rods can be composed of pure titanium or can also be a mixture of pure titanium and other alloys such as aluminum or vanadium. Such rods are most commonly used in orthopedic surgeries. The ends of titanium rods can be threaded or hooked depending on what is needed at the time for the patient. Typically, the surface of titanium rods is covered with or treated with a substance that will encourage the rods to fuse with the bone better once it is implanted into the body.

The specific titanium rod that is used for medical applications typically depends on the injuries of the patient and how stable or flexible the rod must be. When strength is the sole factor, such as when replacing a bone in the leg with a titanium rod, orthopedic surgeons will often use rods made of titanium alloys. Since pure titanium is more flexible than rods made of titanium alloys, these types of rods are often used in patients where the rod being inserted must be formed into a shape before implantation. Titanium alloy rods are typically used in most patients. There is a high friction rate associated with these types of rods though, so any rubbing against other titanium alloy rods must be avoided at all costs.

For children who require orthopedic surgery, an expanding titanium rod is normally used. This is a rod that will be attached at the joints and will stretch with the bone as the child grows. Although these are the best types of rods to use for children who are still growing, the expanding titanium rod can only be used to replace large bones in the body such as a leg bone. Using an expanding rod will also reduce the occurrence of subsequent surgeries since the rod will grow with the child to a certain extent.

Even though expanding rods are used whenever they can be, sometimes the use of non-expanding rods is necessary. If non-expanding titanium rods are used in any type of surgery where the person is still growing, it will be necessary to have repeat surgeries to replace the rod. If the rod is not replaced through subsequent surgeries this could stunt the growth of the child as the rod will not permit his or her body to grow naturally.

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Discussion Comments

By anon944231 — On Apr 06, 2014

I originally had a spiral tib/fib with multiple breaks. My leg was in about 12 pieces. I had surgery and they put in two titanium plates and 11 screws. the plates were not screwed to the bone correctly so I had a non union fracture six months into healing. Month seven came and I fell. I bent the plates, broke a screw, and more bones around the ankle.

They refused to fix it and I was stuck living with a now severely deformed and broken leg with damaged hardware. No one would help me. Then, five months later I fell again. This time, I actually broke the plates and screws broken and embedded in the bone. I finally found someone willing to fix my leg. So I had my surgery and the doctor had a lot to fix and remove in there.

She put in another plate where the fibula was and then a metal rod through the tibia. I was so grateful that not only am I no longer deformed, but I could walk. I actually thought it was some kind of miracle that, after all I went through, I could walk.

I asked my doctor why and how? and she said with a smile, "It's a rod." But the only setback I had was the infection in the incision at the starting point. But I am off the crutches and the walker, and I walk all over my house. I can say the plates are not as strong as they might have you think. And in my case, having that rod put in my leg was a miracle for me. I can feel it at either end and yes, I have pain, but nothing like before. And by the way, the rod/titanium had nothing to do with my infection.

By anon330970 — On Apr 19, 2013

My orthopedic surgeon, whom I had trusted with my health and life, took it upon himself to replace my entire thigh bone with a titanium rod. This surgery changed my life forever. I am unable to walk without the use of a walker, I am unable to lift my leg straight up, my leg is shorter than the other one, I am always in pain and am no longer the same person I was because I am frequently depressed.

I was supposed to have my knee revised only. I honestly feel that the decision to remove my thigh bone, should have been my choice, even if it meant stopping the surgery, and rescheduling it for another day.

By David09 — On Dec 07, 2011

@NathanG - I feel sorry for those people who do not qualify for expanding rods and therefore must use non expanding rods! As their bodies grow, the rods must be replaced.

Imagine the inconvenience that this must cause. Also, I believe that each new surgery imposes its share of health risks. In the end, however, if it means the difference between being able to walk or remaining bound to a wheelchair, I suppose it’s worth the risk.

Just thinking about it makes me appreciate my health all the more.

By NathanG — On Dec 07, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - I think that titanium tubing in the body is a great idea, especially rods that expand and grow with the bone. I seriously doubt that there is any real medical risk.

The article says that the metal fuses with the bone. I don’t see how the metal could seep into your bloodstream after the bone and metal have more or less been forged together.

Also note that titanium is a very light metal. That’s why some bicyclists use it, because it is lightweight yet strong. This property means that it is less dense than say steel, and therefore I don’t think there is the possibility of it “spilling out” so to speak and leaking into your bloodstream.

By SkyWhisperer — On Dec 06, 2011

@nony - While I am grateful for all medical advances, I don’t like the idea of metal in my body. It’s bad enough that I have steel for fillings and gold for crowns.

Putting titanium in my legs just doesn’t sound appealing to me. The reason, in my opinion, is that metal can seep into your bloodstream. At least that’s what I’ve heard about steel fillings, for example, so I imagine that might be true for titanium as well.

I would prefer that physicians look for other prosthetic approaches that don’t involve metal. I don’t know what they would be, as I am not a doctor, but that’s my preference.

By nony — On Dec 05, 2011

@anon172701 - I seriously doubt that you are at risk for getting struck by lightning as a result of having titanium rods in your body. You would sooner get struck for having metal fillings in your teeth if that were the case, and to date I’ve not heard of that happening to anybody.

By anon172701 — On May 04, 2011

If I have titanium rods implanted in my body, am I at a higher risk of getting hit by lightning?

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