Understanding Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Learn What Happens When Back Pain Increases After Spinal Surgery in Santa Monica, CA

When post-surgery pain following back surgery continues beyond the initial recovery period, patients are said to be experiencing Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, a term used to described back surgeries that fail to provide relief. Some occurrences of FBSS have no explanation, although there are contributing factors that may account for some instances of failed back surgery.

Overlooking Other Sources of Back Pain

Correctly identifying all possible sources of pain can be difficult, especially for patients reporting their discomfort as something vague like “lower back pain” rather than anything more specific. Doctors only make surgery recommendations based on what’s clearly identified by x-rays, MRIs, and CT scans.

New Damage During Surgery

Some instances of FBSS are due to new nerve damage resulting from surgery. With a discectomy (surgical removal of herniated disc material), for instance, adjacent nerve roots or discs may be damaged during the procedure.

Increased Risk with Multiple Sources of Back Pain

Spinal fusion surgeries are less likely to be successful in patients requiring multiple fusions along the spine due to the added pressure placed on healthy parts of the spine. The same is true for patients needing dual back surgeries to correct co-existing problems.

Anxiety and Depression

Patients experiencing anxiety or depression may already have a preconceived notion that their surgery will be a failure before it takes place. Depression may also result from unfounded fears or overly cautious behaviors like too much bed rest and avoidance of most activities, which may result in muscle weakness that can contribute to chronic post-surgery back pain.

Preexisting Conditions

Some preexisting conditions may increase the odds of failed back surgery in patients. Patients who smoke, for example, tend to have a more difficult or longer recovery period than non-smokers. Additional contributing factors to FBSS may include:

• Diabetes and high blood pressure
• Chronic insomnia (since sleep helps with healing)
• Autoimmune disease

There is no one hundred percent success rate for any type of major surgery, and back surgery is no exception. Although it should be of some comfort for patients to know that advances in surgical techniques and a move towards minimally invasive spine surgery have greatly increased back surgery success rates.

If you have pre-op concerns about surgery, like the likelihood of experiencing FBSS, or you’d like to find a reputable spine surgeon in Beverly Hills, call (310) 828-7757 and schedule an in-person consultation at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration.