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Causes and Risk Factors

Failed back surgery syndrome can be attributed to various factors, with causes varying from patient to patient. Key factors include:

  • Inaccurate pre-surgery diagnosis leading to inappropriate surgical intervention
  • Surgical complications, such as nerve damage, scar tissue formation (epidural fibrosis), or infection
  • Recurrent disc herniation or spinal stenosis
  • Pre-existing conditions that affect healing and recovery, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders
  • Psychological factors, including depression and anxiety, which can impact pain perception
  • Inadequate post-operative rehabilitation or physical therapy
  • Smoking, which is known to interfere with the healing process


Symptoms of failed back surgery syndrome are primarily characterized by persistent, chronic pain in the back or legs. Other symptoms may include:

  • Sharp, stabbing, or aching pain in the back or extremities
  • Reduced mobility and flexibility
  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the limbs
  • Anxiety, depression, and insomnia
  • Muscle spasms

Diagnosing Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

At Excel Health, diagnosing failed back surgery syndrome involves a concise yet thorough approach. It starts with a review of the patient’s surgical history and a detailed evaluation of current symptoms. A physical examination focuses on spine health, nerve function, and mobility. Diagnostic imaging, including MRI or CT scans, is used to assess the spine for structural issues or scar tissue. Additionally, nerve studies like electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction tests are conducted to evaluate nerve function.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

Conservative treatment for failed back surgery syndrome is aimed at managing pain and improving function. This may include:

  • Physical therapy to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility
  • Pain management strategies, including medications, nerve blocks, or epidural steroid injections
  • Psychological support, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, to help manage the emotional aspects of chronic pain
  • Alternative therapies like acupuncture or chiropractic care

Surgical Treatment Options

In cases of failed back surgery syndrome at Excel Health, surgical interventions are typically considered when specific structural issues are identifiable and amendable. Surgical options include revision surgery, which may involve adjusting or removing hardware from previous surgeries to rectify complications. Another option is spinal cord stimulation, utilizing electrical impulses to disrupt pain signals before they reach the brain.

Additionally, intrathecal pump implants may deliver pain medication directly to the spinal cord. The decision to undertake further surgery is made after a comprehensive evaluation of the potential benefits and risks, considering the patient’s overall health and lifestyle.

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