What are some of the causes of failed back surgery syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome can be defined as any set of pain or symptoms that either has not been relieved by back surgery or that has developed as a result of back surgery. For those who have undergone surgery to relieve neck or back pain, discovering that the surgery was unsuccessful or even that it created new problems can be devastating.

Because there never is a guarantee that back surgery will be successful, the potential development of failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) should always be taken into consideration before electing to undergo a procedure, especially highly invasive surgeries like traditional open spine fusion. The risk is higher compared to minimally invasive spine surgery because traditional open back surgery often requires a large incision and the separation and cutting of the large muscles that support the spine. This increased level of invasiveness increases the risk of complications after surgery such as failed back surgery syndrome.

Causes of failed back surgery syndrome

In general, there are two primary reasons chronic pain may persist after someone undergoes a major back operation.

First, for a variety of reasons, the patient may not have been a good candidate for surgery to begin with. This can be due to a misdiagnosis or a pre-surgery physical evaluation that was not thorough. Either way, if a patient is not a good candidate for spine surgery, the surgery has the potential to create new symptoms outside of the ones already experienced by the patient.

Second, the procedure may have been performed incorrectly. In the midst of the highly invasive nature of traditional open back surgery, a nerve root may be damaged or excessive blood loss may prevent the surgery from being performed with absolute precision.

Specific causes of FBSS include:

  • Surgery performed at an incorrect location
  • Bone graft rejection
  • Fusion hardware failure
  • Scar tissue compressing a nerve root
  • Inadequate decompression of affected nerve or nerves
  • Postoperative infection

When to consider a follow-up surgical procedure

At Laser Spine Institute, many of our patients turned to our minimally invasive spine surgery after their traditional open back surgery resulted in months and years of chronic pain and FBSS. Our procedures are minimally invasive, meaning we only require a small incision and limited muscle disruption. This approach allows our patients to experience a shorter recovery time and less risk of complication^ compared to traditional open back surgery. If you had failed back surgery and are recommended to undergo a follow-up procedure after exhausting conservative treatments, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery can help you reclaim your quality of life.

When you speak to a member of our caring team, he or she can help you receive a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.