Failed Back Surgery Syndrome
Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Back surgeries are performed often these days. While many of them offer pain relief and restoration of quality of life to patients, sometimes these surgeries fail to do what they are intended to.

The condition where back surgeries fail to offer pain relief is called failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). It is sometimes called post-laminectomy syndrome. The term is considered a misnomer, as the word "syndrome" that is included in it is descriptive of some form of condition that has developed over a course of time, rather than it being a response to surgery.

We take a look at this condition in a little more detail.

What Is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

This is a clinical condition where patients continue to experience persistent back pain despite undergoing corrective surgery to treat the same.

What Are The Reasons For It To Develop?

The main aim of performing any form of back surgery is to either stabilize the spinal joints or to reduce the pressure that is placed on a spinal nerve.

During back surgery, once a correction has been made, patients expect to be relieved of their pain. However, this does not always happen, which brings to question the real source of pain being the back or some other source.

In other words, the pain arising in failed back syndrome might be from a source other than the back.

There are other reasons for the pain as well. For example, if corrective surgery on the spine has been performed, pain may arise from another nerve that is located higher up in the spinal column. Failure of the operated area to heal is another recognized cause. For example, following disc surgery, there may still remain persistent compression on the nerves as the disc does not heal well.

The formation of scar tissue in and around the operated area is also a recognized cause of residual pain.

Typically, this syndrome has a higher occurrence after surgeries such as discectomies (performed to treat lumbar disc herniation) and spinal fusion surgeries. For this reason, it is important for the surgeon to make the patient aware of this possibility and, if possible, avoid performing the surgery in the first place.

Management Of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

The main way of managing the pain is to evaluate the reason why the pain has not subsided. Painkillers may be needed to help relieve the pain. Many times, pain is treated depending on how debilitated a patient is and should be approached in a systematic way. Additional tests may be needed to diagnose the cause.

Physical therapy, spinal cord stimulation, injectable steroids and oral medications may all help reduce pain and restore the normal quality of life. This can, of course, take some time.