What is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)?
The decision to undergo surgery for back and neck pain is often an emotional one. For many, it takes weeks of consideration, mental preparation, planning, and more. But for those that struggle with chronic pain, the decision to undergo spinal surgery is well worth it.
Unfortunately, not all back surgery is successful. Some patients find that they still have back pain as they recover. Others have new aches and pains, possibly worse than before. When a patient still has pain after they have recovered from surgery, it is known as “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome” or “FBSS.”
Introduction to FBSS
Failed Back Surgery Syndrome is not a syndrome at all. Rather, it is a blanket term for those that have undergone back or neck surgery and still find that they have pain. FBSS may also not necessarily mean your surgery truly “failed” in a medical sense. In some cases, your surgery may have been successful, but introduced or uncovered other issues that resulted in additional pain.
Why Do Some Back Surgeries “Fail?”
The goal of nearly all back or neck surgeries is to reduce or eliminate chronic pain. If you experience pain after recovery for any reason, then the back surgery is said to have failed. The possible causes of this failure can be substantial, and require an expert diagnosis from a trained FBSS specialist. Yet some of the possible causes include:
- Misdiagnosed Back Pain – It takes years of expertise and study to correctly diagnose the cause of back pain, and it’s possible that the specific cause of back pain was not addressed.
- Surgical Error – The spinal cord is sensitive, and requires a skilled, steady hand. It’s possible for surgeons to make small, imperceptible errors that lead to pain development.
- Hardware Issues – Some spine surgeries use hardware, including pedicle screw failure, which may break down or introduce pain in several different ways.
- Recovery Issues – Recovery is almost as important as the surgery itself. Those that smoke or do not adhere to recovery guidelines may not heal correctly.
- Psychological Challenges – There is a psychological component to chronic pain that may not be addressed with spine surgery alone. In those cases, additional counseling may be needed.
Each individual spine surgery procedure may also have its own unique challenges that could complicate recovery, which is why it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis from an FBSS specialist.
Failed Back Surgery Syndrome: Types of Procedures
Back surgery remains one of the most effective solutions for those with back and neck pain. But all procedures have the potential to cause some form of FBSS because back surgery – perhaps more than any other type of surgery – is incredibly sensitive and complex. That’s why we are often called to for issues that include:
- Failed Spinal Fusion
- Failed Back Surgery
- Failed Neck Surgery
- Failed Spinal Implant Surgery
- Failed Laser Spinal Surgery
- Post-Laminectomy Syndrome
- Adjacent Segment Disease
All types of surgery carry risks, including TLIF, ALIF, XLIF, Laminectomy, Microdiscectomy, and more. If chronic pain persists in any form, even if it changes, it helps to have an expert review your case and see if there are solutions that can be used to treat it.
Diagnosis and Treatment of FBSS
For those that have, or think they may have failed back surgery syndrome, treatment starts with a thorough diagnosis, using every available methodology, including a thorough exam, post-operative imaging, MRI, CT Scan, Bone Scan, Myelogram, and other diagnostic tools until we have determined what has caused the pain to occur.
One we’ve determined the cause of the continued pain, the next step is treatment. Options include:
- Non-Surgical Treatment for FBSS– It is possible to treat some forms of failed back surgery syndrome with non-surgical intervention, and if we can treat it without surgery, that’s what we’ll perform first.
- Surgical Treatment for FBSS – If surgery is required, it is performed by those with decades of experience in advanced spinal surgery, and led by Dr. James L Chappuis, considered a worldwide expert in FBSS treatments.
Procedures vary and can include hardware removal or replacement, new pedicle screws, FBSS specific fusions, and several other treatment options that are proven to support those that struggle with FBSS.
Studies have shown that, when performed by specialists in FBSS, the success rate can be as high as 83% or more depending on the cause and procedure. But the complexities of FBSS repair require that the surgeon have a thorough understanding of the cause of the chronic pain, and the ability to correctly diagnose the issue.
Treatment for FBSS at Spine Center Atlanta
Dr. Chappuis is a nationally renowned spine surgeon that has been involved in the research and application of successful FBSS procedures. He holds over 20 patents in spine surgery applications and hardware, and his team at Spine Center Atlanta has become a popular choice for both local FBSS treatments, as well as medical tourism across the United States. For more information, please call Spine Center Atlanta today at 404-351-5812.