Failed back surgery is a general term used to describe the situation which arises when patients undergo spine surgery that is not successful. The surgery is deemed a failure if it does not resolve the targeted back problem, or creates an even bigger problem than existed prior to the surgery.
Typically, failed back surgery refers to chronic post-surgical back and leg pain. There are no comparable terms which apply to surgery performed on other parts of the body, e.g., failed hip surgery.
What are the common symptoms of failed back surgery?
When surgery for spinal fusion fails, it creates new problems at different levels other where the spine fusion is located. When surgery fails to properly address scar tissue formations, a troublesome disc fragment may have been overlooked or bone may still be painfully pinching a nerve.
Failed back surgery may not have provided adequate decompression of a targeted nerve root or may have created new nerve damage. These failures can result in prolonged or more severe pain, spasms, an inability to recuperate, limited mobility, diminished quality of life, anxiety, depression, dependence on prescription drugs, and other debilitating conditions.
What is the cause of failed back surgery?
Failed back surgery is most often the result of an inaccurate diagnosis of the original problem or problems which prompted the surgery, inadequate treatment of those conditions, or surgery performed at the wrong location on the spine. In some instances, an improper surgical treatment or faulty insertion of hardware may be the cause of failed back surgery.
How is failed back surgery diagnosed?
An estimated 500,000 spine surgeries take place annually in the United States, but all are not equally successful. Nearly 20% of Americans who resort to spine surgery each year report persistent leg and back pain after the fact. In order to reach a proper diagnosis and identify the best course of treatment for your failed back surgery, your doctor needs to examine your medical history and details of your symptoms before and after the failed surgery.
This kind of in-depth evaluation may utilize a combination of diagnostic technologies, including: EMG (electromyography) a test to measure the electrical impulses in your muscles; X-rays; MRI (magnetic resonance imaging); and X-ray-guided, spinal-injection diagnostics.
How is failed back surgery treated?
Successful treatment includes measures your doctor recommends to help ease your back pain as well as address any other new symptoms that have appeared since your failed back surgery. A comprehensive approach might include combining sophisticated techniques and conservative measures.
These include: physical therapy; a stretching and exercising program to stabilize and strengthen your spine and back muscles; transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS); epidural steroidal injections; over-the-counter, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen; as well as cold and hot compresses.
Prolotherapy is another approach your doctor may recommend to remedy problems associated with failed back surgery. It utilizes medications that stimulate injured tissue, creating beneficial local inflammation that triggers your body’s normal healing process. Ultrasound or fluoroscopically-guided injections may also be part of your prescribed prolotherapy.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a comparatively new technique to relieve pain by promoting prolonged healing of muscles and bones. PRP has great potential in treating failed back surgery. Here’s how it works.
When soft tissue is injured, our bodies’ first reaction is to deliver platelet cells to the damaged area. Platelets are made up of healing and growth factors to trigger repair.
Platelet-rich plasma therapy ratchets up the bodies healing capability by delivering a stronger concentration of platelets to the injured tissue. A concentrated platelet-rich serum injected into the injured area can jump-start and stimulate your natural healing process. PRP is appealing because it can relieve pan without the risk of general anesthesia, additional surgeries or hospital stays, and may produce results without a prolonged period for recovery.
What can I do to prevent failed back surgery?
Surgery should be your final option for treating back problems. However, in some cases, it is the appropriate course of action. You can help your Orange County pain management doctor minimize the risk of a failed back surgery by following these logical recommendations: first, make sure you have exhausted all nonsurgical options; if you suspect that your condition may not been accurately diagnosed, seek a second opinion.
Cooperate as fully as possible with your OC pain doctor’s effort to conduct a thorough pre-operative evaluation; and take advantage of your doctor’s ability to educate you and help you set realistic expectations regarding the outcomes of your proposed next surgery.