Common Causes for Failed Back Surgery and What You Can Do About It

It might sound obvious, but “failed back surgery” is exactly what it sounds like — a term used to describe back surgery that was unsuccessful. In other words, you still experience pain after your operation.

At The Failed Back Institute, Dr. Scott Smith uses his expertise to work specifically on cases of failed spinal surgery. With close to 30 years of experience and thousands of spinal operations performed, Dr. Smith brings experience, compassion, and personalized care to treating your failed back surgery.

Causes of failed back surgery

Back surgery can be a delicate procedure, particularly since its predictive success rate is not higher than 95%. There are some risk factors that contribute to a failed spinal operation, including:

  • Smoking
  • Scar tissue formation
  • Recurrent disc herniation
  • Continuous pressure on the nerves in your spine
  • Damage in the nerve, or arachnoiditis
  • Failed fusion, or pseudarthrosis
  • Abnormal movements or instability

Other causes for failed spinal surgery include a technical error performed during surgery. This includes pieces of bone fragment left adjacent to a nerve or fragments of the discs in your spine that may be missing. In either case, we can discover the source of the problem through X-ray imaging and further analysis.


To diagnose failed back surgery, Dr. Smith reviews your medical history and records of past operations. He then performs a complete physical exam to assess your symptoms, capabilities, mobility, sensation, and physical limits. Imaging such as X-rays, CT scans, nerve conductions studies, and MRIs can help to determine the root cause and next steps.

Post-operative rehabilitation

Because it can take anywhere from several months to a year to heal, rehabilitation after spine surgery is extremely important to your recovery. In fact, improper or inadequate rehab is the second most common cause of persistent pain after spinal surgery. That’s why we ensure that you have a well-rounded post-operative rehabilitation plan.

Sometimes, it might even be best to reconsider your rehabilitation plan over the option of further surgery.

Treatment options for failed back surgery

When more conservative treatment options fail, Dr. Smith and the team at The Failed Back Institute have a number of treatment options to consider, including some different surgical options. We also offer different options for pain management, such as injections, medication, and physical therapies.

You don’t have to settle for the results of a failed back operation; call us or request an appointment online today for compassionate and effective care.

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