Failed Spine Surgery

In many cases, failed back surgery syndrome arises when traditional, invasive surgical approaches were used, and when innovative and less invasive surgical options would have been a better fit for the patient.

Failed surgical treatment of the neck or back may stem from improper or inexact diagnosis of common spinal ailments such as herniated discs, sciatica, compressed spinal nerves, scoliosis or other spinal curvature issues, compression fractures from osteoporosis, accidental fractures or traumatic injuries.

When prior surgical procedures have produced unsatisfactory results, failed to relieve pain, or worsened the overall condition and function of the spine, the dysfunction may have been inaccurately diagnosed and the wrong treatment prescribed.

What are the symptoms of failed spine surgery? 

Symptoms of failed back surgery and/or failed neck surgery may include partially relieved pain or worsened pain after healing from the surgery. 

Your pain may be a dull ache or sharp, stabbing sensation. If your spinal range of motion has altered after surgical recovery — making your spine less mobile or, at the other extreme, too unpredictably mobile or unstable — you are likely suffering from failed back or neck surgery syndrome. If you still have (or have a new onset of or increase in) pins-and-needles-like pain or burning sensations in your back, neck or limbs, failed surgery is a likely culprit.

Failed procedures include surgeries on the cervical, thoracic or lumbar areas of the spine such as laminectomy or partial removal of a spinal bone; discectomy or removal of a spinal disc in whole or in part; and vertebroplasty, a bone-stabilizing injection of cement or spinal fusion.

Reasons for failed surgical treatments 

Failed back and neck surgery may result from a number of unfortunate occurrences, such as inaccurate diagnosis, one-size-fits-all surgical treatment with standard back surgery protocols, surgical accidents, or inexperience on the part of the back surgeon. A surgical treatment may fail if a spinal nerve or disc problem recurs in the same or another part of the spine. Causes of this can be an incomplete repair during the surgery or additional stress placed upon bones and tissues surrounding the surgical site, further up or down the neck or spine.

Nerve damage, pain and restricted range of movement may result from new or unrelieved cord compression, scar tissue from the surgical procedure, loss of core muscle strength of tone, range of motion changes and/or inadequate spinal stability after failed back or neck surgery. Even loose or broken screws can occur. To correct the effects of failed back or neck surgery, seek a new diagnosis or second opinion. There is no guarantee that the original diagnosis was correct or complete, and new problems may have developed post-surgery.

When do I consider revision surgery? 

Once non-invasive options have been exhausted, it is the time to consider a corrective surgery. Our spine surgeons offer a variety of innovative, advanced and personalized surgical treatments developed and performed by highly experienced and well trained surgeons skilled in treating failed back or neck surgery syndrome. You won’t find this level of expertise and treatment options in any other surgical practice. Our commitment and dedication to restoring health to those suffering from failed back or neck surgery — and our track record of success — is second to none for corrective surgery to fix the following conditions:

Our corrective spine surgeries 

Failed cervical fusions – We are constantly fixing failed cervical fusions from other centers and surgeons. Most commonly, a nonunion occurs and the bone never fuses. But, don’t despair. This may be a good thing. Our surgeons can often convert a failed cervical fusion to an artificial disc replacement. This can reduce your pain or eliminate it all together, plus you gain valuable motion back.

The second most common problem we see is the failure to remove the bone spurs that are causing the pain. The neck bone may fuse, but the radicular component or arm pain persists. This can also be easily repaired. Sometimes a laminoforaminotomy is needed. Most of these corrective procedures we do are as an outpatient.

Failed lumbar laminectomy – One of the most common types of failed surgery that we see is a failed lumbar laminectomy for spinal stenosis or foraminal stenosis. This issue, where the nerve root remains compressed, usually occurs in larger patients. The reason is that the technique utilized to fix the patient’s problem was difficult and outdated. The surgeon usually uses a mid-line incision. Bleeding, if not properly controlled, impairs clear visualization of the nerves, so they remain compressed. The surgeons at NYC Surgical Associates have a significant amount of expertise in advanced surgical techniques to fix this type of failed spinal surgery.

Failed lumbar discectomy – Failure to remove the disc causing your leg pain, leg burning or leg numbness can lead to continued pain and disability. Often a new MRI with contrast will show the continued problem. Do not rush into a fusion. Usually we are able to fix the problem with the use of a simple minimally invasive procedure. We use a high-powered microscope to find your pinched nerve first, then we free it up from the herniated or extruded disc fragment. We commonly do this procedure as an outpatient surgery.

Our surgeons are experienced and trained to fix these complicated problems and we do just that every day at NYC Surgical Associates.

Failed surgery from bony overgrowth – If you have had a fusion to fix your back, you may have noticed temporary improvement only to later develop leg pain. Sometimes this is from the infuse (bone morphogenic protein) product that has been utilized. While the product has some advantages, if not used properly, it can lead to more pain. Usually a minimally-invasive foraminotomy is required to fix the problem, but a full set of studies will delineate what your surgeon will be required to do to fix the problem.

If you have questions about these surgical procedures or would like to speak to someone qualified to answer your questions, schedule at consult at NYC Surgical today.