PURPOSE While spinal instrumentations are becoming more common, the advantages of elective spinal implant removal remain ambiguous. We hypothesized that elective implant removal of the posterior spine is beneficial. METHODS A retrospective study evaluated 137 consecutive trauma patients with elective implant removal of the posterior spine. If additional cages were present, they were not removed. Primary outcomes were the change in pre- and post-operative pain, fingertip-floor distance (FFD), and Cobb angles. Some secondary outcomes consisted of complications, work disability, and pelvic incidence (PI). Different stabilization approaches and cage sizes were compared. RESULTS The presence and amount of pain as well as the FFD showed significant improvement. There was no loss of reduction. Delayed wound healing was observed in 9 %, but only 3 % needed revision. Thoracic fascial dehiscences were seen only in patients (9 %) that had stand-alone posterior surgery. Larger cages were associated with increased work disability. An increased PI was associated with less post-operative pain and decreased FFD. CONCLUSIONS In this study, trauma patients benefited from elective implant removal of the posterior spine due to lower presence and level of pain, improved function and low revision rates; irrespective of an initial combined or stand-alone posterior approach or varying cage sizes. However, stand-alone posterior instrumentation may be accompanied by increased rates of fascial dehiscence surgeries and larger cages may lead to increased work disability. Increased PI may be associated with less pain after spinal implant removal.