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Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Failed back surgery syndrome (also called FBSS, failed back syndrome, or postlaminectomy syndrome) is a generalized term that is often used to describe the condition of patients who have not had a successful result with back surgery or spine surgery and have experienced continued pain after surgery.

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What to know about FBSS

Spine surgery can be done to decompress a nerve root that is pinched, or stabilize a painful joint. In some cases, surgery still fails to provide significant relief of pain despite the anatomical changes such as removal of lesions.

Some causes of failed surgery are:

  • Failure of spinal fusion surgery (fusing two or more vertebrae with bone grafts, metal rods and screws), causing problems to another level of the spine above or below the level of fusion
  • Fragment of disc or bone still pinching a nerve
  • Hardware insertion
  • Scar tissue formation
  • Pre-operative nerve damage that does not heal after surgery, or nerve damage occurring during surgery
  • An erroneous initial diagnosis of a patient’s condition
  • Administering improper surgical treatment for the condition
  • Performing surgery at an incorrect level on the spine

Symptoms of failed back syndrome:

  • Continued chronic pain
  • Pain above or below the treated level of the spine
  • Inability to recuperate quickly or at all
  • Restricted mobility and flexibility
  • Sharp, stabbing back pain
  • Pain radiating from the back to the legs
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Potential dependence on drugs prescribed for pain treatment