What to Do About Immediate Failed Back Surgery — Three Steps to Relief

Mar 16, 2022

What to Do About Immediate Failed Back Surgery — Three Steps to Relief

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a broad term that describes pain and other symptoms related to an unsuccessful or complicated spine procedure. Because of this, there can be an extremely wide range of potential causes and ways that FBSS develops.

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a broad term that describes pain and other symptoms related to an unsuccessful or complicated spine procedure. Because of this, there can be an extremely wide range of potential causes and ways that FBSS develops. In a very large number of cases, pain and symptoms from a failed back surgery have a gradual onset, but that isn’t always the case. 

Some patients experience immediate failed back surgery. While some amount of pain and discomfort during recovery is normal, many people know or strongly suspect that something went wrong with their procedure right away. Although not as common as other types of FBSS, immediate failed back surgery affects nearly 3% of patients undergoing spine surgery, according to research. 

If you believe you may be dealing with immediate failed back surgery, we’re sharing the following informative guide to help you understand this condition and your options for pain relief. 

At Spine Center Atlanta, founder and board-certified surgeon Dr. James L. Chappuis has been helping patients overcome FBSS for years. Our state-of-the-art facilities and highly experienced multidisciplinary team can positively identify the sources of failed spine procedures and develop effective and personalized treatment plans that can return you to the healthy and active lifestyle you deserve.

Immediate Failed Back Surgery Explained

Immediate failed back surgery syndrome, sometimes called IFBSS, is when there is an unsuccessful spine surgery and the effects are felt or known immediately. For example, if surgical error results in nerve damage that causes new pain that a patient experiences almost as soon as anesthesia wears off. 

Another potential reason is misdiagnosis, where the true source of pain was not treated by the procedure — such as when a lumbar disc procedure is performed when sacroiliac joint dysfunction is the real cause of back pain. 

This is in contrast to delayed-onset FBSS. In a larger number of cases, FBSS develops gradually in the weeks and months following the procedure. One common cause of gradual FBSS is if a segment that is adjacent to the surgical site develops pain due to increased stress as a result of the procedure. This is particularly common after fusion procedures. 

If you are experiencing abnormal pain, very severe pain, or new symptoms immediately after a spine procedure, do not ignore it. Any good surgical provider would rather have a patient be too cautious in reporting pain than not cautious enough. If your surgeon or physician is being dismissive of your pain, it is definitely a sign to seek out a different spine treatment provider. 

Step One: Don’t Be Afraid to Get a Second Opinion 

Immediate failed back surgery syndrome needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible. If there is a medical emergency, such as a severe infection, internal bleeding, tissue damage, or rejection of an implant, an immediate surgical revision may be needed.

Patients reporting any abnormal pain immediately after back surgery should receive a thorough examination including the following steps:

  • Detailed questions about the pain and symptoms
  • An exhaustive review of medical and the surgical order
  • A physical examination and movement tests
  • New diagnostic testing and imagery, such as an MRI

If there is any attempt to downplay or ignore your pain and symptoms, seek out another spine specialist right away. Time is of the essence with IFBSS and you should look for a center or provider with a dedicated focus on identifying and addressing any form of back surgery-related pain. 

Step Two: Nonsurgical Treatment Often Helps 

Depending on the specific nature of your immediate failed back surgery pain, you may either be recommended to undergo a follow-up surgery or recommit to nonsurgical treatment. Very often, the right combination of conservative treatment can be highly effective for pain relief. The following options are usually attempted as a first-line treatment before attempting revision surgery, even for immediate failed back surgery syndrome:

  • Physical therapy: A combination of therapeutic exercise and manual therapy can help to strengthen supporting muscles, improve range of motion, and relieve pressure on lumbar discs and nerves. 
  • Aquatic therapy: All of the advantages of traditional physical therapy combined with the resistance and buoyancy that a pool-based setting offers. 
  • Massage: A qualified massage therapist can relax tense muscles around the spine, increase circulation, and break up bundles of painful tissue, which can help the healing and recovery process. 
  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture helps many patients find relief by stimulating blood flow and releasing endorphins, among other benefits. 
  • Wellness therapy: A combination of healthy nutrition, such as an anti-inflammatory diet, and other steps such as regular exercise and behavioral care can be an effective part of a larger pain management care plan. 

Each patient and case of failed back surgery syndrome is different, which is why personalized care is so important. Spine Center Atlanta offers comprehensive treatment under one roof for the convenience and benefit of our patients. We believe in creating individualized treatment plans based on your exact IFBSS diagnosis. 

Step Three: Considering Revision Surgery? Trust Experience

In some situations, surgeons may recommend immediate surgery after diagnosing FBSS if there is a serious or life-threatening condition present. In other cases, Physicians recommend patients dealing with FBSS pursue nonsurgical treatment over a course of weeks or months. If the pain still persists, and there is an operable condition present, a follow-up procedure can be the best option for achieving long-term relief. 

If revision surgery does become an option for immediate failed back surgery, our board-certified surgical team specializes in these cases at our state-of-the-art surgical facility. A successful revision surgery requires an accurate diagnosis, world-class surgeons and techniques, and a dedicated recovery plan. Spine Center Atlanta can provide all of these and we have been specializing in FBSS revision procedures for years. 

Spine Center Atlanta: Your FBSS Treatment Specialists

If you are dealing with immediate failed back surgery syndrome, Spine Center Atlanta can help. Revision surgery is very often successful and Dr. Chappuis is considered a nationally recognized expert. The Spine Center Atlanta staff consists of leading and highly skilled surgeons.

We are based in Atlanta but serve patients across the United States. If you believe you may be struggling with immediate failed back surgery, please contact us today or call 404-351-5812.