Failed Back Surgery Syndrome – Causes & Your Options

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Everybody hopes that their spinal surgery fixes their problem and alleviates their pain, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. If a surgery fails, it’s often categorized as an FBSS, which stands for Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. The term is a bit of a misnomer as it’s not really a syndrome, but it is a system for classifying patients who have not had a successful spinal surgery result. Today, we take a closer look at why FBSS occurs, and what patients can do about it.

Causes Of Failed Spinal Surgery

Spine surgeries can fail for a number of reasons. Sometimes they fail because of an action by a surgeon or a patient, but other times they fail through no fault of anyone involved. Even when surgery goes as expected and the patient adheres to rehab guidelines, the total success rate for all spine surgeries hovers around 95%, so there’s no way to guarantee your operation will be a success. Here’s a look at some controllable and uncontrollable reasons why a surgery might fail.

  • Not Treating The Root Cause Of Pain – This is the most common cause of failed back surgery syndrome. A spinal fusion is not going to fix your pain if your pain really stems from a narrowing of the spinal canal. This is why it’s important to have an accurate diagnosis prior to spine surgery.
  • Surgeon Error – Failed back surgeries due to surgeon error are becoming much more rare as better techniques have streamlined the process and minimally-invasive techniques mean their less less chance for error.
  • Higher-Risk Operation – An overweight and diabetic patient will be less likely to have a successful spinal fusion operation than a healthy person with a normal weight. Patients can try to control some of these factors ahead of the operation, but not everything can be accounted for and they can lead to surgical failure.
  • Overworking The Spine Too Soon – We understand that you want to get back to work or back on the field after an operation, but doing too much too soon can overstress recovering spinal structures and lead to a failed surgery. Listen to your doctor’s rehab instructions and always consult them if you’re thinking about increasing or decreasing your activities levels.
  • Hardware Malfunction – The goal of spinal surgery is to re-stabilize the spine, and sometimes that involves the insertion of hardware or tools like spinal cement. No two bodies are identical, so a surgeon can’t guarantee that one specific hardware will always perfectly re-stabilize the spine. If hardware shifts or breaks, FBSS can occur.

Fixing Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Hopefully your first operation will be successful, but it’s not guaranteed. If your first surgery fails to provide you with relief, you still have options. For starters, try to get to the bottom of why the first surgery failed. Once you’ve uncovered why your surgery was unsuccessful, then you can start developing solutions for fixing the problem. Oftentimes this will involve a second operation.

However, before you go underneath the knife for a second time, it’s probably worth your while to seek out a second opinion. A second set of eyes can give you a new perspective on the problem, and they may see something the first surgeon missed.

So if your first surgery was unsuccessful, or you’re interested in receiving a second opinion on your back, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi today!

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