What is failed back surgery syndrome and will more surgery help?

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) surgery may be considered after an individual has a surgical procedure to address chronic neck or back pain and experiences continuing, worsened or new pain afterward. FBSS is a general term used to describe the condition of an individual who did not achieve a positive result from spine surgery.

What causes FBSS?

Some factors that can lead to failed back surgery syndrome and a corresponding need for another surgery or other follow-up treatment include:

  • Incorrect diagnosis — The process of diagnosing a spine condition is often complicated, especially when spinal cord or nerve root compression produces symptoms in other areas of the body, such as the arms, legs, hands or feet. An inaccurate diagnosis can lead to the selection of an improper treatment, such as surgery performed on the wrong level of the spine, which can sometimes cause further problems or leave the true issue unaddressed.
  • Incomplete spinal cord or nerve root decompression — A patient’s symptoms can persist or worsen if the source of the compression, such as a bone spur or herniated disc material, is not completely removed during surgery.
  • Migration of a spinal implant — After a stabilizing implant is placed during a spinal fusion procedure, the implant can sometimes shift before it becomes firmly attached to the spinal bones. This can make the fusion ineffective and possibly create pressure on the spinal cord or a nearby nerve root, leading to further problems.
  • Scar tissue — As the body heals from surgery, bands of fibrous scar tissue can sometimes form in the treated area. Depending on its location, scar tissue can exert pressure on the spinal cord or a spinal nerve root and create a new source of pain.

How to reduce the risk of FBSS

To ensure the best possible outcome from spine surgery, it’s essential for a patient to consult with an experienced and trusted spine surgeon and to seek one or more second opinions to confirm a diagnosis. Additionally, before consenting to any surgical procedure, a patient should explore all appropriate treatment options, ask questions and learn as much as possible about his or her condition.

Many studies show that the likelihood of FBSS increases along with the invasiveness of the surgery performed. For this reason, it’s always best to select the most conservative approach that is appropriate for the patient. Many surgical candidates are surprised to learn that a highly invasive open spine procedure may not be their only option. The skilled surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are alternatives to open spine surgery.

If you’d like to find out if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive, outpatient surgery to address failed back surgery syndrome, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We will provide you with a no-cost MRI review to determine if you may be a candidate.