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Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

After any spine surgery, a percentage of patients still may experience pain. This is called failed back or failed fusion syndrome, which is characterized by uncontrollable pain and an inability to return to normal activities. Surgery may be able to fix the condition but not eliminate the pain.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

The main symptom is pain following back surgery. Additionally, your ability to complete your normal, daily activities may be altered.

Risk factors/possible causes for the condition:

  • Smoking
  • Formation of scar tissue
  • Recurring or persistent disc disease
  • Continued pressure from spinal stenosis
  • Instability or abnormal movement
  • A “false joint” or failure of the fusion
  • Nerve damage within the nerve

Tests to Diagnose Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

A diagnosis will be based on your symptoms and medical history. Tests that may be required include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography (CT scans)

Treatment Options

Treatment will vary depending on the nature of your condition and what caused prior surgery to fail.

  • Epidural steroid injections can sometimes help manage the pain, but they are typically not a 100% cure
  • Spinal Cord Stimulators are often the best choice to manage failed back surgery syndrome