Help for Patients with Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Many patients who have surgery for spinal injuries find the procedure fails to achieve a successful resolution of their symptoms. Such outcomes occur frequently enough that “failed back surgery syndrome” (FBSS) has become a recognized clinical term. “Post-laminectomy syndrome” is another term often used to describe this condition. Such outcomes don’t necessarily indicate surgical error. A variety of factors beyond the surgeon’s skill can affect the procedure’s outcome. Sometimes the surgery is successful, but over time the patient’s condition continues to deteriorate until it is worse than prior to surgery. It’s not surprising that many patients who’ve undergone the rigors of back surgery without success believe they will never be able to lead a full, healthy life. Here at New Jersey Spine Specialists, Drs. Mitchell Reiter, Mark Drzala, and Heidi Hullinger can discuss options to correct previous medical failures and alleviate pain and discomfort, and they frequently treat patients for FBSS.

The Treatment Protocol for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

FBSS treatment starts with properly diagnosing the cause of the continuing or new symptoms. Post-operative MRI and/or CT scans often play an important role in assessing the underlying spinal problem. Persistent symptoms of pain and discomfort following spinal surgery can have a variety of common causes.

  1. A spinal condition such as spinal stenosis can develop just above or below the area of the previous surgery, a situation called “adjacent segment disease” or a “junctional” problem. These post-operative problems are often associated with spinal fusion surgery.
  2. Disc herniation can occur in the area of the previous surgery, a condition referred to as recurrent disc herniation.
  3. Should the initial surgery fail to properly or fully resolve the spinal disorder for which it was prescribed, pressure on a nerve can persist, causing ongoing symptoms.
  4. If the initial diagnosis was incorrect, the initial surgery will leave the true source of pain unaddressed.
  5. Failure to heal properly after an attempted spinal fusion, which is referred to as a non-union or pseudarthrosis, can be at the root of post-operative problems.
  6. Spinal infection, spinal instability or improperly placed spinal implants can all result in post-operative pain.
  7. It’s not always possible to identify the exact reason a patient’s spinal surgery fails to correct their back problem. This is when the term “failed back surgery syndrome” or “post-laminectomy syndrome” is typically applied to their cases.

Corrective spinal surgery, often called “revision” are complex procedures, requiring evaluation and treatment by an experienced surgeon who understands both the root cause of the problems and the best course of therapy to address that condition. That’s why many patients with FBSS put their care in the hands of Drs. Reiter, Drzala and Hullinger. Their experience in complex reconstructive spine surgery includes revision cervical surgery, corrective lumbar surgery and scoliosis corrective surgery. If your back surgery has failed to achieve the results you anticipated, call or email New Jersey Spinal Surgeons today to schedule a personal consultation!

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