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Treatment Solutions for Failed Back Syndrome

The specialists at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates, formerly the Brain & Spine Institute, can help with back pain that continues, even after treatment. Failed back syndrome refers to continuing or recurrent back and/or leg pain after back surgery, usually after a fusion surgery. Several factors can contribute to the failed back syndrome, including:

  • Recurrent Disease
  • Failure of Fusion
  • Pre-existing or New Pain Generators    

Causes of Failed Back Syndrome

For these factors that can lead to Failed Back Syndrome, in about 8 percent of cases, recurrent disease, or disc disease, can reoccur after disc surgery. The disc above or below a spine fusion can start to deteriorate over time because of increased stress on the spine.

With spinal fusion surgery, under the best circumstances, only 80 percent succeed. This means that 20 percent will fail. A failure of fusion with evidence of instability is a likely source of pain. Usually requiring a revision of the spinal fusion, it is important to eliminate any factors that may have influenced the failure.

The most frequent contributing factor to a failed fusion is smoking as nicotine affects blood pressure, making it more difficult for healing oxygen to flow through your body. It is, therefore, important to stop smoking before a revision surgery. Other factors may be the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as Ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.), which are known to interfere with fusion or bone growth. Our spine specialists at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates will work with patients on pre-surgery recommendations such as these.

After initial surgery with new functional movement, pre-existing or new conditions causing back and leg pain may be identified. Two common such conditions are sacroiliac dysfunction for back pain and piriformis syndrome for leg pain. Other muscle or disease issues may also be the cause of pain, so it is important to talk with one of our spine specialists to eliminate any causes of pain or discomfort prior to treatment.

Imaging Studies to Identify the Source of Back or Leg Pain

There can be multiple causes of continuing back or leg pain, so it is especially important to correctly identify the source. Our specialty spine team at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates will order tests such as:

  • MRI with or without contrast
  • CT scan to assess fusion
  • Nuclear medicine bone scan
  • Nerve study (EMG)

Revision Back Surgery May be Necessary

In the case of recurrent disease or a failure of the previous fusion, revision back surgery may be necessary. With this more complicated surgery due to the presence of scar tissue, it is important to consult a spine specialist at Neurosurgery & Spine Associates with this specific skill and expertise. Intra-operative X-rays, computer navigation guidance, operating microscopes and electrical monitoring are often used for such surgeries.

Contact Us for More Information on Back Pain

If you continue to experience back or leg pain and would like more information or to schedule an appointment, call 678-312-2700 so that our staff can readily assist you. We also offer a convenient online form for comments or questions.

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