Failed Laminectomy Surgery – Spine Center Atlanta

Failed Laminectomy Surgery

Pain After Decompression Back Surgery

In the back of each vertebrae are a pair of laminae – two arched bones that, when combined with what’s known the “spinous process” (a bone that juts out from the back of each vertebra), make up the posterior of the spine.

The role of the lamina is to protect the back of the spinal cord. But when the nerves in the vertebra are compressed, the lamina can be fully or partially removed to provide more space for the nerves to become less compressed or released, as well as give the surgeon access to the nerves within the spine. This is called a laminectomy.

Pain After A Laminctomy

Lumbar Laminectomy Diagram

Laminectomies are used to reduce chronic back, leg, or neck pain. Laminectomies may be standalone procedures, or they may be combined with other surgical techniques, depending on the cause of the back pain. The goal of any laminectomy is to eliminate chronic pain, or at least make the pain more manageable.

But some patients experience pain after their laminectomy – pain that is either identical to their pain before surgery, or a new type of pain. If any severe, chronic, or otherwise debilitating pain occurs after a laminectomy, surgeons refer to this as a “failed” laminectomy, because the procedure did not successfully reduce or prevent pain.

Why Do Laminectomies Sometimes Fail?

If you have a failed laminectomy, you may hear it referred to as both “post laminectomy syndrome” and “failed back surgery syndrome.” Both of these terms are interchangeable, and simply imply that pain has come back after some type of spine surgery. In medical terms post laminectomy syndrome is a type of FBSS.

(Interestingly, you can also have post-laminectomy syndrome even without a laminectomy. It’s simply a term that doctors use to refer to pain after back or neck surgery.)

This means that there are countless possible causes of failed laminectomy, just as there are many different symptoms that may still be considered a failed back surgery. If the patient experiences any pain that they consider to be severe or chronic enough that it is affecting their life, they qualify as having a failed laminectomy.

There are many different reasons that the patient may have pain develop after a laminectomy. Some of those reasons include:

  • Insufficient Decompression
  • Infection
  • Dural Tears
  • Injury to the Nerves
  • Misdiagnosis (Laminectomy Unable to Treat the Problem)

These are only a small sample of the possible reasons that a laminectomy may fail. The development of pain after back or neck surgery can be complex, which is why it is critical to receive a diagnosis from a failed back surgery specialist.


If the patient underwent a laminectomy, and the pain returned, treatment requires a thorough diagnosis to determine any structural changes or deficits that may have contributed to the pain. If any are found, a follow up revision spine surgery may be recommended, such as spinal fusion.

If the patient does not seem to have any structural issues that have led to the post-laminectomy pain, the patient may instead be recommended more conservative approaches to see if there is a way to treat the condition without surgery.

Spine Center Atlanta has become a leading source for failed back surgery syndrome, including failed laminectomy of the back or neck. Drs. James L. Chappuis and Julio Petilon are recognized speakers and leaders in post-surgical pain, and with their team can provide effective treatment recommendations that are designed to eliminate the recurrence of chronic pain and make any discomforts more manageable.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment to review the laminectomy, please call us today at 404-351-5812.

Types of FBSS

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