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Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)

Doctor looking at back X-Ray with patient.

No one wants to feel pain after back surgery. But when you have failed back surgery syndrome or FBSS, it’s not just the pain that is stressful. It is the idea that you just completed surgery, and yet your chronic pain wasn’t fixed – you still have to struggle each and every day.

But there is no reason to let hopelessness kick in. There are treatments for FBSS. Every single type of back surgery, including:

  • Spinal Fusions
  • Laminectomies
  • Discectomies and more

Each failed surgery has possible treatments, no matter the cause or where on the cervical or lumbar spine the surgery took place.

However, it is important to note that determining the treatments for FBSS does require specific expertise. It’s why we often see patients from all over the United States – not just Georgia – for FBSS consultations and treatments. Dr. James L. Chappuis and his team at Spine Center Atlanta are specifically trained in handling surgical revisions and treatments for failed back and neck surgery. For more information, please call us today at 404-620-5523.

Non-Surgical Treatment For FBSS

Failed back surgery experts, like Dr. Chappuis and his team, will first want to explore any possible ways to treat FBSS without surgery. It is important to make every effort to see if there is an appropriate non-surgical treatment first before deciding whether or not revision surgery is warranted.

Some of the non-surgical treatments for FBSS include:

  • Medications – Most patients have tried medications first before electing for back surgery, and the medications did not work. However, we always want to first see if we can manage the pain without surgery, so it may be a good idea to try pain medications again. It’s possible that the cause of this specific pain is manageable with medications in a way previous pain was not.
  • Aquatic Therapy – Aquatic therapy may also be beneficial for those with FBSS, especially if the cause of FBSS is still not entirely clear. There is some evidence that exercise in a water environment can potentially help the body gain strength and a greater range of motion without requiring additional surgery, and possibly leading to reduced pain.
  • Physical Therapy – Targeted physical therapy has similar benefits. Patients can build muscle, stretch tissues, improve flexibility, and more, all under the supervision of a trained physical therapist. After FBSS, it’s possible that the patient needs to train the spine to adjust for the effects of surgery, improve posture, and more. Physical therapy may be the best result.
  • Massage – Not all patients are candidates for massage. But some patients, particularly those that need to relax the muscles on their back, reduce swelling, and relieve pain. Massage may also have psychological benefits that support pain recovery.
  • Acupuncture – Acupuncture is a unique treatment for failed back surgery syndrome. Throughout history, acupuncture has been used in the East to release tension, support blood flow, and more. It may also have muscle relaxation benefits and may release endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers) which decrease the severity of back, neck, and leg pain.
  • Spinal Cord Stimulator – If it’s worth taking a bit more of an aggressive non-surgical approach, you may be fitted with a device known as a “Spinal Cord Stimulator.” A device is implanted under your skin, with small wires that are hooked up to the spinal cord. Whenever the stimulator is on, electronic pulses mask and block the nerves in the spinal cord, essentially tricking your brain into thinking that it is not in pain. Only some patients qualify for this type of procedure.
  • Psychotherapy -Although the pain is not “in your head,” it is scientifically proven that there are psychological factors that contribute to back pain. Thus, therapy is considered part of a non-surgical alternative approach to FBSS. Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioral therapy, is supported in the research as a possible treatment option.

It is the goal of Spine Center Atlanta to always look first at the possible alternatives to surgery for FBSS before recommending any type of revision surgery. But if the pain persists, or the patient is not a good candidate for non-surgical intervention, an FBSS surgical revision may be necessary.

Surgical Revisions For FBSS

If the cause of the pain cannot be managed with non-surgical methods alone, revision surgery for FBSS may be necessary. Surgical revisions are not that much different than initial surgical options.

However, the surgeon – especially one with expertise in failed back surgery syndrome – is equipped with more tools to help solve the pain, more information to determine why the pain is occurring, and an advanced understanding of the techniques used to treat recurrent pain.

There are dozens of different treatment options available. Some of the most common surgical revisions for FBSS include:

  • Fusions For FBSS – Spinal fusion, both cervical and lumbar, may be used to treat failed back surgery. It may be in the same segment or in an adjacent segment, depending on the location of the pain. Follow up revision fusions tend to be more effective, especially if the cause of the failed fusion is known and preventable.
  • Scar Tissue Removal – When scar tissue is to blame for the recurrent pain, scar tissue removal is usually the best solution. Often carefully removing the excess scar tissue without disrupting nearby tissue can have a positive effect on reducing pain.
  • Hardware Removal – When pain is the result of implanted hardware, hardware removal is often the next step. Dr. Chappuis and his team look to see if new hardware needs to be installed, or if a simple removal surgery is all that is necessary. In some cases, hardware removal can be minimally invasive.
  • Disc Replacement Surgery – Sometimes, the damage to a disc warrants disc replacement. Artificial discs have advanced dramatically, and as long as the disc is the right fit for your body, disc replacement surgery may help reduce back pain.
  • Pedicle Screw Repair – Dr. Chappuis himself holds patents in some of the most technologically advanced pedicle screws, and he and his team are highly knowledgeable of how to perform pedicle screw repair safely and effectively.

These are only a few of the surgical treatments that may be performed to help with failed back surgery syndrome. Yet no matter what treatment is ultimately chosen, it will be based on a thorough diagnosis, to ensure that it will be an effective treatment.

Find The Treatment For FBSS

It does require special expertise to thoroughly examine, diagnose, and treat failed back surgery. That is why Spine Center Atlanta sees patients from across the United States and Canada that are looking for additional help. Luckily, there are many treatments that are available, and while FBSS can have its complexities, there are effective diagnostic tools for making sure any upcoming treatments are more effective.

For more information about Spine Center Atlanta, please call us today at 404-620-5523 to explore what may have led to your pain, and ultimately determine the best way to treat it.

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Spine Center Atlanta

3161 Howell Mill RdNW
Atlanta, GA 30327
Office: 404-351-5812
Fax: 404-351-6017
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Sa: 10:00 AM-3:00 PM

Spine Center Savanah

310 Eisenhower Dr, Building 12
Savannah, GA 31406
Office: 912-417-3050
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1501 Milstead Road, Suite 160
Conyers, GA 30012
Office: 678-263-2020
Fax: 404-984-2883
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4930 Governor’s Drive, Suite 205
Forest Park, Georgia 30297
Office: 678-506-7692
Fax: 678-889-3103
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Spine Center Augusta

Interventional Spine Services in Augusta
501 Furys Ferry Rd.
Martinez, GA 30907
Office: 706-715-2897
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