Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS) refers to a situation whereby patients experience chronic pain even after undergoing spinal surgery for back pain.
The pain may be reduced but still present. The pain may get worse within a few months after the surgery. This may be due to a buildup of scar tissue around spinal nerve roots, persistent tissue pain and muscle spasm.
When you experience a failed back surgery syndrome, not only does your back still hurt, but also you feel like you’re right back where you started even after undergoing a spinal fusion or herniated disc surgery.
What is the treatment for failed back surgery syndrome?
It is important to work closely with your surgeon in follow-up treatment. Your surgeon will do everything possible to know the cause of your pain and exclude any specific complications such as infection, reherniation of the disc, or hematoma formation. You will also start planning some coping skills so that you can get through the early period of further treatment.
You may be referred to a pain specialist to diagnose your condition and look at the cause of your pain and how the pain can be improved. Appropriate pain medications may be prescribed to help with your pain.
Initial treatment may involve corticosteroid injections, nerve blocks, or radiofrequency neurotomy. Radiofrequency neurotomy is a treatment to temporarily block pain signals. It involves the use of heat to heat up small nerve endings and temporarily blocks the pain.
If the pain does not respond to initial treatments, neuromodulation treatment may be an option.
Electrical neurostimulation may also be used. This involves placing one or more leads with small electrical contacts near the nerves. The leads send mild electrical signals to the nerve roots stemming from the spinal cord. The electrical signals mask the pain. If pain is reduced, a small battery is implanted to provide ongoing stimulation.
You may also undergo physical therapy to strengthen your core and increase your spine’s range of motion.
Intrathecal drug delivery is a neuromodulation treatment option that involves placing a catheter that delivers pain medication directly to the affected area. Instead of taking oral medications, this treatment may be a better option.
Is failed back surgery syndrome a disability?
Failed back syndrome is typically not a disability. However, if it prevents you from being able to work and you can prove it, it could be termed as a disability. If you can prove that the disability will last for at least 12 months, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits.
Can I sue my doctor for failed back surgery?
You may be able to sue your doctor or surgeon for a failed back surgery only if your doctor failed to warn you of the risks that may occur after the surgery. If your doctor informed you of the risks that may occur after the surgery including the possibility of still experiencing pain even after the surgery, you will not be able to sue your doctor. This is because your doctor already informed you that you may still experience back pain even after your back surgery; hence you don’t have a legal right to sue your doctor.
What happens if my spinal fusion failed?
A percentage of patients may still experience pain after a spinal fusion. This is known as failed fusion syndrome. It is characterized by intractable pain and an inability for the patient to return to normal activities. The patient may undergo another surgery to fix the condition. However, the surgery may not eliminate the pain.
Why do so many back surgeries fail?
Statistics have shown that 10-40% of patients experience failed back surgery syndrome. Back surgery failure rate is so high due to the major shortcomings of two common types of back surgery known as spinal fusion and disc replacement.
Spinal fusion surgery is one of the most common situations in which patients experience failed back syndrome. The spine doesn’t fully fuse immediately after spinal fusion surgery. Instead, the surgeon has only created an environment that encourages fusion. This is done through the use of a tissue graft between two (or more) vertebrae.
The spine must be stabilized and immobilized to a degree for the vertebrae to fully fuse. The spine fusion may be ineffective if the environment for growing new bone tissue is not quite right. This is one of the common causes of failed back syndrome after spinal fusion surgery.
Failed back syndrome also commonly happens after a discectomy or laminectomy to treat herniated disc in patients with degenerative disc disease (DDD). Even after the surgery is perfectly performed, degenerative disc disease can affect multiple locations in the spinal column. Sometimes a patient may have a herniated disc repaired only to find out that another disc herniation has occurred after recovery from the surgery. It could also be that a more minor existing herniation was being masked by a more obvious herniation with serious symptoms.
Can failed back surgery be fixed?
Yes, failed back surgery can be fixed. Various medications, reoperations, interventions such as spinal cord stimulation, epidural adhesiolysis or epidural injection, exercise therapy, and psychotherapy have been suggested as treatment options for failed back surgery.
What percentage of back surgeries fails?
Statistics have shown that 10-40% of back surgeries fail.
Can one bend ruin a spinal fusion?
After undergoing spinal fusion, doctors advised that patients should avoid excessive bending, twisting, and straining to protect the fusion while it heals. You can ruin your spinal fusion if you bend excessively.
Can you mess up a spinal fusion?
A spinal fusion can fail if there is not enough support to hold the spine together while it is fusing. You can mess up a spinal fusion if you don’t adhere to the recovery instructions to allow your spine fuse successfully. It typically takes 3-6 months for bones to heal and fuse together. You will typically need to avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise after undergoing a spinal fusion. You will also have to avoid driving for 2 to 4 weeks after your surgery or until your doctor says it is okay. Avoid bending and twisting awkwardly and excessively.
How do you know if back surgery failed?
Signs and symptoms of failed back surgery include chronic or persistent back pain, numbness, weakness, tingling sensations, leg pain, and pain that spread from one area of the body to another.
How successful is back surgery for bulging disc?
Herniated disk surgery (surgery for bulging disc) is often very effective. After the surgery, you should start to see improvements in symptoms like pain, weakness, and numbness within a few weeks. Most people can return to their usual daily activities in about 4 weeks after the surgery.
The success rate of surgery for disc herniation such as microdiscectomy, endoscopic microdiscectomy, laminectomy, and discectomy is approximately 79%.