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Failed back surgery syndrome

Committing to having back surgery is a difficult decision for anyone, and it’s normal to expect that the surgery will alleviate your symptoms. Statistics indicate that failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) can be an issue for as many as 40 percent of patients who undergo traditional open back surgery to correct a spinal condition. However, minimally invasive spine surgeries significantly reduce the chance of a patient developing FBSS when compared to traditional open back surgeries.

What is failed back surgery syndrome?

Just as it sounds, failed back surgery syndrome describes what a patient is experiencing when they have undergone spinal surgery and the problem has not been corrected, or the procedure has caused new problems to arise. This condition is more common in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine than in the cervical (upper) spine.

How is failed back surgery syndrome diagnosed?

Failed back surgery syndrome is usually diagnosed when a patient identifies problems during the early stages of recovery following spine surgery and consults their physician. The symptoms of FBSS can be difficult to pinpoint, however, because the normal recovery process for spine surgery usually includes some amount of stiffness or swelling that can mask the presence of FBSS. The actual diagnosis process usually includes a physical examination followed by an imaging procedure to identify the source of the symptoms.

What are the causes of failed back surgery syndrome?

There are many potential causes of failed back surgery syndrome. They can include a physician’s failure to adequately diagnose the problem before surgery, nerve damage that occurs during surgery, failure to successfully remove the pressure being placed on a nerve root during surgery or a spinal fusion procedure that doesn’t achieve a solid fusion. Additionally, a surgical procedure that appears to be successful at first could fall into the FBSS category if an implant migrates during the healing process or scar tissue develops and puts pressure on a nerve root.

How do I identify the symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome?

The most obvious of the failed back surgery syndrome symptoms is the continuation of the pain or other symptoms that prompted the surgical procedure. Other signs that an open spine surgery has failed can include limited mobility, inability to recuperate, joint instability, spasms and aching pain in the neck, back or legs. The appearance of symptoms related to a spinal condition that wasn’t present prior to surgery is also a strong indicator of FBSS.

What are the treatment options for failed back surgery syndrome?

Because failed back surgery syndrome can incorporate a wide range of spinal conditions, there are many conservative and alternative treatments that may help relieve some or all of the symptoms. Nonprescription medications, exercise, physical therapy and hot and cold therapy are some of the most commonly prescribed nonsurgical options for relieving pain and other symptoms. Alternative treatments, such as massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care, are also options to consider.

Does failed back surgery syndrome require additional surgery?

Many patients who suffer from spinal conditions related to failed back surgery syndrome will be able to find relief from their symptoms through a combination of conservative and alternative treatments. For some, depending on the type of spinal condition they are experiencing and the severity of the symptoms, an additional surgery may be necessary.

At Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati, we offer minimally invasive outpatient surgery that can treat a full range of spinal conditions, including failed back surgery syndrome, and we’re proud to have a Patient satisfaction score of 98.^ Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to see if you’re a candidate for our procedures.