Risk Factors and Demographics for Failed Back Surgery
90% of those that undergo surgery for back, neck, or leg pain experience little to no pain after surgery. But for an unlucky 10% of patients, pain in these areas does return. For some, it is the exact same pain they experienced prior to surgery. For others, the pain is quite different – occurring in a different location or experiencing a different kind of pain.
Why Did My Surgery Fail?
If you have back, neck, or leg pain after any type of back surgery, it is known as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). With many different types of spine surgery, and countless anatomical issues that can cause problems, it’s possible to develop FBSS for a number of different reasons:
- Surgical Error
- Dural Tears
- Scar Tissue
- Degeneration of Adjacent Segments, and More
With so many different potential causes of FBSS, there may not have been any specific risk factors that put you more at risk than others. You may have simply been one of the unlucky ones.
But there are some risk factors that may increase the risk of developing failed back surgery syndrome, and could possibly explain why you may have developed FBSS. These FBSS risk factors include:
- Smoking – Smoking after surgery is one of the most common reasons that some patients experience FBSS, especially after lumbar fusion and cervical fusion. Smoking interferes with some of the bone grafting processes, which in turn means the fusion may fail.
- Lifestyle – In addition to smoking, many different lifestyle factors could contribute to FBSS, including failing to adhere to exercise guidelines, poor diet, and heavy lifting before recovery. All of these may put some patients more at risk.
- Degenerative Disc Disease – Patients that undergo spinal fusion, and other related surgeries for degenerative disc disease (DDD) may be at greater risk for FBSS if the DDD is advanced. The fusion can put pressure on the other discs, speeding up their degeneration.
- Use of Inadequate Pedicle Screws/Hardware – Most common pedicle screws loosen over time, according to pedicle screw research performed by Spine Center Atlanta’s own Dr. James L. Chappuis. Although there are some screws that stay more firmly in place, they are not yet widely used. Similarly, some forms of hardware are less effective than others, but still in circulation today.
- Depression or Anxiety – The presence of depression or anxiety may also be a risk factor for FBSS because mental health can contribute to both the development of back pain and the perception of the severity of back pain.
Interestingly, age, race, gender – none of these seem to be risk factors for the development of failed back surgery syndrome.
FBSS Is Preventable – But Requires Requires Evaluation
It should be noted, however, that many of the risk factors for failed back surgery come from long before the surgery itself. For example, your surgeon may have used a type of surgery (such as posterior spinal fusion) that are simply more prone to failure. Or you may have been selected as a good candidate for one type of surgery when risk factors of failure existed.
Yet even a perfect surgery has a risk for FBSS. The only way to determine why you were one of the unlucky few is to receive a thorough diagnosis that can identify what caused your FBSS, how preventable it is, and what can be done to treat it. For more information, please call Spine Center Atlanta today at 404-351-5812.