What Patients Can Expect After Failed Back Surgery

Common Back Pain in Woman in Los Angeles, CA

Even when a probable cause of back pain is identified through diagnostic tests, a prerequisite for back surgery, patients won’t always experience meaningful relief. While failed back surgery, also referred to as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), is a setback, it’s not necessarily the end of the road for patients. Learn more from experienced Los Angeles spine surgeons.

Better Diagnostic Attempts

X-rays and scans can sometimes miss the true source of back pain due to unclear imagery or internal structures that may have been in the way. A second attempt at diagnosis may involve an MRI combined with the injection of a dye to identify a pain source previously overlooked. Most patients respond better to pain management techniques once an accurate diagnosis has finally been achieved through new testing.

Attempting Another Surgery

Surgeons are often reluctant to recommend surgery again for patients who have experienced failed back surgery unless there are new diagnostic results. In the case of a failed spinal fusion, a surgeon may recommend efforts to improve diet, reduce weight, and stop habits such as smoking and drinking that may have prohibited or interfered with tissue regeneration before attempting another fusion.

Considering Alternative Procedures

Just because one surgical procedure failed doesn’t mean another technique won’t be effective. Another option for patients following failed back surgery is to determine if they are candidates for newer or less-commonly performed procedures.

Chronic Pain Management

Instead of opting for another attempt at surgery, doctors often recommend a shift to pain management efforts. Steroid injections, for instance, are placed directly into the affected area of the spine to provide immediate relief. Repeated injections may be applied to the affected area to induce scarring and effectively stabilize the spine. Patients are often given medication for use in between treatments to minimize pain. Chronic pain management following failed back surgery may also include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Muscle relaxants and opioids
  • Physical therapy and chiropractic care
  • Exercise and muscle conditioning

Patients tend to have better results with procedures that have a high success rate. Having realistic expectations going into any spine procedure can also help patients be better prepared to deal with the outcome of their surgery.

To learn more about surgical options for back pain or for a second opinion, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation with a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who can help you rediscover a pain-free life.