Why Do Some Back Surgeries Fail?

Why Do Some Back Surgeries Fail?

You struggled with back pain for years, agonized over whether to have surgery, and finally decided to do it. You were nervous but excited as you envisioned a pain-free future.

Then a few weeks after your back surgery, you realize your pain hasn’t improved. Or it’s worse than before. Now you’re incredibly discouraged, maybe even angry, and you wonder what to do next.

That’s when David Lanzkowsky, MD, at Centennial Spine and Pain can help. He can determine why you’re still in pain and recommend advanced interventional treatments to ease your symptoms. You can also get his expert advice about whether another spine surgery is likely to improve your pain. 

Here’s what you should know about what it means to have failed back surgery and why it happens.

Failed back surgery isn’t always a procedural failure

Failed back surgery doesn’t necessarily mean something went wrong during your procedure. Your surgeon could perform a textbook example of a successful surgical procedure, and you could still end up with significant pain.

When back surgery “fails,” it means you still have symptoms after having a procedure that was supposed to repair the problem. You may have pain and neurological symptoms — such as tingling, numbness, and weakness — in your back or neck and radiating down your legs or arms.

Failed back surgery occurs when:

Your pain may occur in the same area as your initial problem or develop in other areas of your neck or back. You could experience pain right after surgery or not for months.

Causes of failed back surgery

Here’s a rundown of reasons a patient’s pain doesn’t improve, even after undergoing surgery to treat the problem.

Issues during surgery

During decompression surgery, your surgeon may create too little or too much space around the nerves. If that happens, they aren’t adequately decompressed and your symptoms won’t get better. In about 2%-3% of cases, surgery is performed on the wrong vertebrae or disc.

Post-surgery complications

Some people develop an infection after surgery. Or excessive scar tissue might grow. Both problems prevent complete healing or irritate the nerve. As a result, your pain persists. If your surgeon implanted hardware like rods and screws, the pieces could come loose or fail to support your spine, causing pain.

New degeneration or disease

Your surgeon may do a great job of repairing the original problem, but another spinal condition can develop. Or another problem may have started before your surgery but didn’t cause symptoms and went undetected.

Some conditions, such as spinal stenosis, can recur after surgery. Additionally, the biomechanics of your spine may change due to your surgery. These changes can accelerate degenerative changes.

Adjacent segment disease

This condition develops after having a spinal fusion. The spinal vertebrae treated during surgery heal and that pain improves, but the vertebral segments above or below the fusion develop degenerative disease and new pain appears.

Surgery didn’t repair all the problems

Your surgery may effectively repair one problem, while another one went undetected and untreated. Though not as common, it’s possible you had the wrong diagnosis.

We can address your pain

If you have failed back surgery, we encourage you to meet with us so we can review your records, evaluate your X-rays, and perform a complete exam. After identifying the reason for your pain, we can help you understand the problem, review your treatment options, and recommend the next best step for easing your pain.

To get expert care for failed back surgery, call Centennial Spine and Pain at 702-839-1203 or book an appointment online today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Don’t Be Burdened by Neuropathic Foot Pain

Chronic pain is always hard to treat, and it’s even more of a challenge when your discomfort arises from neuropathic foot pain. But don’t give up. Even if you still have pain despite medications, you can get relief with interventional medicine.

When Surgery Is the Best Solution for Sciatica

As much as no one wants surgery, sometimes it’s the best or only treatment. Luckily, many people find that sciatica improves with nonsurgical care. But for some, worsening nerve damage means surgery is the only path toward significant pain relief.

Returning to Sports After ACL Surgery

ACL injuries are common among athletes, leaving many wondering when — and if — they can get back to their sport. If you’ve injured your ACL, here’s what you should know about getting back into the game after your surgery.