When does failed back surgery syndrome require additional surgery?

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) describes the return of original symptoms, or the development of new symptoms, caused by complications related to an open spine surgery. The symptoms associated with FBSS are wide-ranging and there is no single definition of the condition.

In addition to a resumption of the pain and physical challenges faced before the operation, patients also often deal with psychological stress and anxiety related to the failed outcome. Another difficulty is the question of whether a new surgery is required — and weighing the risks of whether it will fix the problem or make it worse.

How is failed back surgery syndrome treated?

A certain amount of discomfort is natural after a patient undergoes spine surgery of any kind. This means pain and other symptoms after an operation do not necessarily mean the outcome is failed back surgery syndrome. However, a physician may begin to suspect an unsuccessful surgical outcome if symptoms continue past the normal recovery period, or if they worsen.

For many patients, being diagnosed with FBSS means starting over. Often the first step in treatment is to resume conservative options that may have been attempted before the procedure, including:

  • Physical therapy
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Pain medication
  • Periods of rest
  • Hot and cold compression therapy
  • Continued weight management and posture improvement

A treatment plan should take into account new symptoms that have arisen since the original procedure. For example, modifying a previous physical therapy or therapeutic massage program may be required.

When or if an additional surgery should be undertaken is different in every situation and should be decided in close partnership with your doctor. Some patients may not be a candidate for additional surgery if a procedure runs the risk of creating too much spinal instability, or if a treatable cause cannot be found.

Laser Spine Institute can help

If you have FBSS and are considering additional surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute. We perform minimally invasive spine surgery that has helped more than 75,000 patients since 2005, including those who have dealt with failed back surgery syndrome. To learn whether your FBSS can be addressed by the team of neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons at Laser Spine Institute, contact us today and request a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan.*