Back pain affects as many as 80% of Americans at some point in their life, and it’s the leading cause for disability worldwide. Laminectomy and spinal fusion are often used for treatment, but they may not always be successful. At Failed Back Institute in Weatherford, Granbury & Midland, Texas, Scott Smith, MD, is a leading expert on complex spinal revisions to treat failed back syndrome. If you’re still in pain after going through back surgery, Dr. Smith may be able to help. For a consultation, call or request an appointment online.

What is failed back syndrome?

Failed back syndrome, also called failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), failed spinal fusion, and post-laminectomy syndrome, is a general term that refers to pain that remains — or even worsens — after a laminectomy or spinal fusion surgery. FBSS can refer to back, neck, and leg symptoms that remain after surgical intervention.

Typically, back surgery is done to address two main problems:

  • Compression of a nerve
  • Instability of a spinal joint

When surgery fails to do one or both of these, it’s considered a failure.

What causes FBSS?

The spine is a complex system of bones, muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons. When you have pain, it’s often difficult to properly diagnose and locate originating issues causing your pain. The No. 1 cause of FBSS is that the spinal procedure didn’t address the main source of pain.

Other causes for FBSS include:

  • Failure of complete spinal fusion
  • Failure of implant to fuse
  • Transfer of spinal pain to new site
  • Inadequate decompression of nerve
  • Nerve damage occurs during initial surgery
  • Recurrent underlying issues, such as spinal stenosis or disc herniation
  • Scar tissue formed on nerve
  • Untreated secondary source for pain

While anyone who has spinal surgery could have FBSS, factors that increase your risk of failure include: smoking, diabetes, and lack of appropriate physical therapy and rehabilitation after surgery.

What are the symptoms of FBSS?

Symptoms of FBSS may not necessarily be similar to the symptoms you had previous to your initial surgery. Common symptoms may include:

  • Sharp, stabbing, or burning pain in your back, neck, or legs
  • Dull, general, achy back pain
  • Numbness and tingling in your arms or legs

It’s important that your back and neck pain be checked out by an experienced spinal specialist, so your pain can be properly diagnosed and treated.

How is FBSS diagnosed?

Dr. Smith first takes the time to go over your medical history and background of your back problems. He evaluates your past medical and surgical interventions, and gets a complete picture of treatment you have already received.

Then, he does a thorough physical assessment to determine your symptoms, abilities, mobility, sensation, and limitations. He orders diagnostic studies, such as:

  • MRI
  • CT
  • X-rays
  • Nerve conductions studies

Your treatment plan may include steroid injections or spinal nerve stimulators as conservative treatment options. Minimally invasive approaches may be an option to relieve pain due to nerve compression and scar tissue. For fusion failure, Dr. Smith is highly experienced in fusion surgery using specialized implants and artificial joints.

For a consultation about your failed back surgery and to discuss treatment options, call or request an appointment online with Dr. Smith.