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Failed Microdiscectomy

Surgeon performing back surgery

Pain After Disc Herniation Surgery

Herniated discs are often very painful. Depending on the location of the disc, the pain may be severe enough to be debilitating, making it difficult or impossible to move freely without severe pain.

Spine surgeons have many potential solutions for treating herniated discs. One of the most effective is a discectomy, usually performed as a “microdiscectomy,” which means that the surgeon used minimally invasive approach with a microscope to get a better view of the affected area.

Herniated discs are painful because they press on nerves. Discectomy is the surgical removal of part or all of a herniated disc. In over 90% of patients, this successfully prevents the disc from pressing on the nerve, and ultimately reduces or cures back, leg, or neck pain. But in some patients, the pain comes back. If you find that you have any pain after your recovery, you may have a failed microdiscectomy.

Why Did Your Microdiscectomy Fail?

Microdscectomies are generally considered successful procedures in the surgical community. One study found that 91.6% of all patients that undergo a microdiscectomy show partial or full improvement after their surgery has recovered.

But for roughly 8% of patients, some form of pain comes back. Although pain of any kind is considered “failed microdiscectomy” even if the surgery was otherwise a success, most of the causes of pain after microdiscectomy are directly related to the procedure itself, including:

  • Dural Tears
  • Insufficient Bone Removal
  • Recurrent Disc Herniation
  • Insufficient Shock Absorption Material Remaining
  • Segmental Instability

There are also possible causes of failed microdiscectomy that may be only tangentially related to the type of procedure. For example, infection and misdiagnosis are risks of all different types of back surgery, and may occur with almost any type of patient.

Symptoms of failed microdiscectomy are also directly related to the type of failure. Most of the time, the symptoms are similar to what the patient experienced before surgery. But some symptoms may be different depending on the cause of the failure. Examples of possible symptoms include:

  • Pain in the leg, back, neck, or hips.
  • Burning or tingling sensations.
  • Spinal headache (if caused by dural tear)

However, recall that any type of chronic or severe pain and discomfort that occurs after a microdiscectomy is said to be a “failed back surgery,” so patients that are experiencing any type of pain or discomfort should consider seeing a specialist in failed microdiscectomies, and other failed back surgery issues.

Treatment For Failed Microdiscectomy

Failed microdiscectomy treatment depends on the cause of the pain, and how that cause is diagnosed. Conservative pain management is preferred as a first approach, especially if there is no clear structural issue that has led to the increase in pain.

These may include physical therapy, medications, and other pain management tactics. Even if these conservative treatments did not work in the past, they may be more effective with the current pain.

If the issue is structural in nature, a revision surgery may be necessary. However, this decision is not taken lightly. At Spine Center Atlanta, where nationally recognized failed back specialists Dr. Julio Petilon and Dr. James L Chappuis examine and treat patients with pain after back surgery, we only perform surgery when there is likely to be a clear benefit and reduction in pain. Examples of possible surgical revisions include:

  • Repeat Microdiscectomy
  • Spinal Fusion
  • Scar Tissue Removal

The final determination will be based entirely off of your symptoms and the diagnoses, but will be focused on what is likely to have the best outcome for elimination of your chronic pain.

Spine Center Atlanta has become a destination for those throughout the United States and Canada that struggle with failed back surgery, as our team is considered one of the foremost experts in failed microdiscetomy, and other types of FBSS. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call us today at 404-351-5812.

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