Failed back surgery syndrome statistics don’t tell the whole story

About 400,000 people in the United States undergo spine surgery each year. Of those who undergo open neck or back operations, recent surveys have discovered that 30–40 percent experience some form of postoperative complications.

For patients researching spine surgery, these statistics seem daunting and, frankly, a little frightening. However, there is a lot of variable information in these statistics that is not being discussed — information that exposes the real risk of failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) and the toll it takes on a person’s overall well-being.

As you begin your research on the risks of traditional open back surgery, you should have a full understanding of failed back surgery syndrome. Simply, failed back surgery syndrome is when a patient experiences the same, more or new pain and symptoms after spine surgery than the person experienced before the procedure. This could be caused by the formation of excessive scar tissue, infection, complications or nerve damage during surgery. While the physical symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome are sometimes debilitating, the mental and emotional toll can sometimes be worse.

The mental and emotional toll of FBSS

While failed back surgery syndrome statistics show that tens of thousands of patients do not gain physical relief from their operations, the statistics do not show the emotional and mental damage caused by this risk.

Most people who undergo spine surgery do it as a last resort method of treatment. That means they have been suffering from back pain for several years, have been through countless failed conservative treatments, and have finally resorted to the last treatment option available — and it didn’t work. Now, these people who have already endured so much pain and have suffered a decrease in quality of life are faced with the possibility that there might not be a treatment; the rest of their life could be lived in pain that prevents them from doing the things they enjoy.

From this perspective, it is easy to recognize the emotional and mental implications of failed back surgery syndrome. While this condition does not cause depression, it is often closely linked with the development of depression because people feel hopeless after their “last resort” treatment doesn’t work or leaves them in worse pain than before.

Reduce your risk of developing failed back surgery syndrome

If you have the option of undergoing a minimally invasive spine procedure, rather than an open neck or back operation, the numbers say it is well worth it. The most significant statistic from a three-year study conducted by Laser Spine Institute was the contrast between the infection rate for open back surgery (up to 4.7 percent) and minimally invasive spine surgery (0.13 percent).

Additionally, the large incision and muscle detachment used in traditional spine surgery is not used during minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Instead, our minimally invasive decompression surgery and minimally invasive stabilization surgery uses only a small incision that goes around the muscles instead of through them. This reduces our patients’ risks of infection, recovery time* and complications.

To learn more, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our spine care team is available to review your MRI or CT scan and help you find the best approach to pain relief for your back pain.