Failed Back

Surgery Syndrome

Failed Back Surgery

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (also referred to as FBSS, or failed back syndrome) is a misnomer, because it isn’t really a syndrome – it’s a very generalized term that’s typically used to describe the condition of patients who haven’t had a successful result with back surgery or spine surgery and have experienced continuing pain after surgery. There’s no equivalent term for failed back surgery syndrome in any other form of surgery (e.g. there’s no failed cardiac surgery syndrome, failed knee surgery syndrome, etc.).

There are several reasons that a back surgery might or might not work, and even with the best doctor and for the best indications, spine surgery is no more than 95th predictive of a successful result.

Reasons for Failed Back Surgery and Pain after Surgery

Spine surgery is basically able to accomplish only 2 things:

Decompress a nerve root that’s pinched, or
Stabilize a painful joint.

Unfortunately, back surgery or spine surgery cannot virtually cut out a patient’s pain. It’s only able to change anatomy, and an anatomical lesion (injury) that’s a probable cause of back pain and it should be identified before rather than after back surgery or spine surgery.

By far the number one reason back surgeries don’t seem to be effective and a few patients experience continued pain after surgery is as a result of the lesion that was operated on isn’t, in fact, the reason for the patient’s pain.

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Symptoms a patient may expereince from failed back surgery syndrome can include:

Chronic pain that has persisted for at least 6 months following prior surgical intervention. 

Pain consistent with symptoms that existed prior to surgery and/or new symptoms that developed following surgery.


Minimally invasive procedures that may be considered when suffering from failed back surgery syndrome.

Radio-Frequency Ablation

Radio-Frequency Ablation is a procedure that aims to address pain that is being caused by the sensory nerves of the facet joints. RFA’s are a minimally invasive procedure that have been used to treat arthritis of the spine for quite some …

Epidural Steroid Injection

Epidural steroid injections (or ESI) are typically performed after non-invasive measures (physical therapy and/or chiropractic) have failed. An ESI procedure involves delivering a steroid medication directly to the site of the inflammation…

Spinal Cord Stimulator

Spinal cord stimulators involve implanting a neurostimulation device that assists in interrupting nerve related pain signals before your brain can register the feeling of pain. With spinal cord stimulators they are often recommended for …

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