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A guide to failed back surgery syndrome

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) can occur for a number of reasons, but the end result is the same: Following surgery to reduce or eliminate chronic neck or back pain, a patient experiences persistent, worsened or new sources of discomfort. This can be a devastating situation to deal with after making the difficult situation to undergo open spine surgery. Instead of getting back to the lifestyle you’ve been missing out on, you still find yourself debilitated and more hopeless than ever.

The good news is that FBSS is treatable and there is still hope for finding lasting relief from your pain. A great first step in this journey is to learn as much as possible about your condition. This information can help you become more active in the treatment process and work more closely with your doctor to create an effective treatment plan.

Causes of FBSS

Some of the factors that can lead to failed back surgery syndrome include:

  • Improper diagnosis of the underlying condition. The process of diagnosing a spinal condition is rarely straightforward, especially when nerve compression in the spine creates symptoms in other areas of the body, as is often the case for patients with sciatica. An inaccurate diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatment being prescribed. For instance, a surgical procedure performed at the wrong level of the spine can fail to address the original problem or possibly create a new one.
  • Incomplete nerve decompression. If a surgeon is unable to completely remove the source of the compression, such as a bone fragment or herniated disc material, the symptoms may persist.
  • Spinal fusion failure or implant migration. During the recovery process, a stabilizing implant that was placed during surgery can sometimes shift out of its intended position before becoming attached to the vertebrae, rendering it ineffective and possibly creating new problems if it compresses a nerve.
  • Scar tissue formation. As the body heals after surgery, it can form bands of scar tissue in areas of tissue disturbance. This can potentially bind to a nerve, leading to postoperative pain.
  • Nerve damage. While surgical decompression of a nerve root usually causes temporary inflammation and pain, permanent nerve damage can sometimes occur, which can lead to chronic symptoms.

Treatment options

For those with FBSS, doctors or specialists will often first recommend resuming conservative treatment options like medication, physical therapy and hot and cold compression to see if symptoms can be relieved before another surgery is considered.

If you have exhausted conservative treatment options and you are still experiencing symptoms related to a failed back surgery, reach out to USA Spine Care. Our board-certified surgeons+ perform minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat failed back surgery syndrome on an outpatient basis.

Contact our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

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