Patients Who Need Revision Spine Surgery

At New Jersey Spine Specialists, we have helped many patients who have been previously treated elsewhere for spinal injuries but have not seen a successful resolution to their symptoms.  There are times when surgery has been performed but then over time the patient’s condition continues to deteriorate or becomes even worse than it was prior to surgery.  In many of these cases, patients have reached the point where they believe that they will never be able to lead a full, healthy life.  Drs. Reiter, Drzala, and Hullinger can explore options to correct previous medical failures and to find ways to alleviate pain and discomfort.

Sometimes a surgery may seem initially successful, and then for various different reasons, a patient’s situation worsens at some point afterwards.  These circumstances do not always mean that the prior spinal surgeon “made a mistake,” and there are a wide variety of reasons why patients find themselves facing revision surgery.

Reasons for Revision Spinal Surgery

The first step in treating a patient with a poor outcome following spinal surgery is correctly diagnosing the source of the continuing or new symptoms.  A post-operative MRI and/or CT scan is usually necessary to help assess the situation. Below is a list of common sources of persistent symptoms after spinal surgery.

  • A new problem such as disc herniation has occurred in the area of the previous surgery. This is called a recurrent disc herniation.
  • A problem such as spinal stenosis has developed at a spinal level above or below the previous surgery. This is called either a junctional problem or “adjacent segment disease” and can often be seen following spinal fusion surgery.
  • The previous surgery did not fully or properly address the spinal disorder for which treatment was attempted. This can result in persistent pressure on a nerve.
  • An attempted spinal fusion did not properly heal.  This is known as a non-union or pseudarthrosis.
  • The initial surgery was done for an incorrect diagnosis leaving the true source of pain unaddressed.
  • Less common causes of pain after surgery include spinal infection, improperly placed implants, or spinal instability.
  • Sometimes an exact diagnosis for a patient’s failure to improve after spinal surgery cannot be made.  In this situation, patients are given the diagnosis of “failed back surgery syndrome” or “post-laminectomy syndrome.”

Revision spinal surgeries (also called corrective spinal surgery) are complex procedures, and patients need to be evaluated and treated by a surgeon who understands both the root cause of the problems at hand and the best course of treatment to solve those problems. Drs. Reiter, Drzala and Hullinger have experience in complex reconstructive spine surgery, including revision cervical surgery, corrective lumbar surgery and scoliosis corrective surgery.