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Sometimes back pain surgery doesn’t work. When back pain surgery fails and you are now experiencing severe, chronic pain as a result, you may be diagnosed with Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS). For patients who have had traditional open or minimally invasive back surgeries, up to 40% of them may experience FBSS.
Many doctors recommend traditional surgery for back pain that’s associated with a pinched nerve or a damaged joint. Unfortunately, the diagnosis testing might not match up with the symptoms the patient is experiencing. Instead, injections can be helpful in pinpointing the specific cause of the back pain. This can give an accurate diagnosis, which can help your spine specialist find the right course of treatment. Often, there are least-invasive options available for back pain treatment.
What Is Failed Back Surgery?
Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a general term used to describe a situation in which patients have recurrent pain after back surgery. The pain may occur immediately after the surgery and never subside, or it may come up gradually.
Most non-invasive back surgeries that are preceded by proper diagnosis are successful. However, in a few cases, patients may experience the gradual development of sharp pain in their back after the surgical procedure.
The Causes of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
Failed back surgery syndrome can result from many causes. Some of those could be:
- Inaccurate diagnosis of your back pain
- Spinal fusion failure
- Failure to decompress the area around the exiting nerve (also known as Lateral Recess Stenosis)
- Surgery was performed on the wrong area of the spine
- Pain developed in the area above the surgery site (also known as Adjacent Segment Disease)
- Scar tissue formed at the incision site
- Not all of the damaged disc was removed and it’s still pinching a nerve
- The surgery created nerve damage in your back
Diagnosing Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
In order to find the best option for back pain relief, our doctors will need to take you through a comprehensive workup. This could include any or all of the following:
- Taking your medical history. This includes assessing your current symptoms, previous back pain treatments, and what kind of care you’ve received for your back pain in the past.
- A physical examination. Your spine specialist will do a careful exam that looks for limits to your range of motion, issues with your balance, and identifying pain points. They will also examine your reflexes, identify muscle weakness, or any other signs that could indicate spinal cord damage.
- Testing. Your spine specialist might wish to have x-rays done on your back to look for signs of infection or other issues. They may also wish to have a CT scan or MRI done in order to give them a 3D view of the spine. This can help them identify problem areas such as herniated discs.
Treatment Options for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
Finding the right back pain treatment for sufferers of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome can be difficult, but your spine specialist will work with you to develop a care and treatment plan to help pinpoint and treat the affected area of your back. We offer numerous options for back pain relief, including:
Least Invasive Procedures
- Transforaminal Endoscopic Discectomy – This procedure is used to treat damaged spinal discs using an endoscope. The surgeon will relieve any pressure that’s being caused by the discs on the spinal nerves.
- Endoscopic Foraminalplasty – This procedure is used to treat the foramen, the space where nerves enter and exit the spine. This opening can because smaller and begin to put pressure on the nerves. A spinal surgeon can enlarge the foramen and decompress the nerves.
- Endoscopic Nucleoplasty – This procedure treats tiny tears in the annular wall of the spinal discs. These tears can be innervated and create back pain. Using an endoscope, a spinal surgeon will look for the tears, ablate the nerves with a radiofrequency probe, and then seal up the tear.
- Endoscopic Rhizotomy – This procedure is useful for patients who can lean forward without back, but experience intense pain when trying to lean backwards. If you have had a percutaneous medial branch rhizotomy with some success, this procedure could benefit you. A spinal surgeon will ablate the medial nerve, providing better long-term results than a traditional percutaneous medial branch rhizotomy.
- Spinal Cord Stimulator – Under local anesthesia, an electrical current is sent to the spinal cord. The electrical current interrupts the pain signals being sent to the brain by the nerves.
What Is the Long-Term Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Diagnosis?
In some cases, failed back surgery syndrome may be a condition that requires living with a long-term diagnosis. This situation occurs when a major neurological deformity or condition developed as a result of the original back or spine surgical procedure. But many cases can be treated successfully with either conservative or surgical treatment options.
What Is the Recovery Time After Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Treatment?
After surgery to correct failed back surgery syndrome, your body will need time to heal. The time required will depend on various factors, including the nature of the FBSS surgery you had. A minimally invasive spine procedure at Spine Institute of North America will have a relatively short recovery period, and you should be able to return to your normal activities within a few weeks.
What Is the Success Rate for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome Treatment?
The success rate for FBSS depends on the kind of treatment option used. When employed with proper diagnosis, non-surgical options like spinal cord stimulation tend to offer a higher success rate than opting for a second operation. But a surgical solution will be necessary if the FBSS has resulted in serious motor weakness or loss of bladder or bowel function in the patient.
Contact Spine Institute of North America now for more information about treatment options.
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