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Failed Back Surgery Syndrome – What it Is and What to Do Next

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS or FBS) is a condition in which a patient experiences back pain after surgery.

failed back surgery syndrome (back pain after surgery)

What is Post Laminectomy Syndrome?

Post laminectomy syndrome is a type of FBS. It describes a patient who experiences back pain after a specific procedure called laminectomy.

Why Does Back Surgery Fail?

Though the condition is named failed back surgery syndrome, it’s not always the result of a failed surgery. The condition is used to describe any back pain after surgery. So, it could be related to a failed surgery, or it could be caused by something entirely different.

As an example, let’s assume we have a patient experiencing back pain as a result of a vertebrae pressing against the spinal column. The laminectomy procedure may successfully resolve that source of pain for the patient. However, the same patient may also have a narrowing of the spinal canal (stenosis) which causes pain. This would not have been resolved during the surgery and would continue to be a source of pain for the patient. This patient would be diagnosed with FBS.

What are the Causes of Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

Many factors influence whether a patient will develop post laminectomy syndrome. For example, a bone fragment left during the vertebrae removal may rest against the spinal cord causing pain. Or, the patient may develop scar tissue, a condition known as epidural fibrosis, which can cause pressure on the spine and result in pain. There is also evidence to suggest that patients who smoke, have diabetes or have an autoimmune disease are more likely to develop FBS.

Failed Back Surgery Symptoms

How do you know if you have FBS? As you can see, failed back surgery syndrome is a term which encompasses a broad range of conditions. If you’ve undergone back surgery and continue to experience back pain your doctor will likely describe your condition as failed back surgery syndrome.

Back Pain After Surgery, Now What?

So you’ve had back surgery and you continue to have back pain. What do you do now?

As we’ve discussed, your back pain can be the result of many different things. If you have back pain after surgery you should see your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Or, go to a different spine doctor for a second opinion.

To meet with one of the doctors at Saratoga Spine call our office to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Glens Falls, Saratoga and Plattsburgh, NY to better serve the Capital region and North Country.


  1. Wikipedia
  2. Physio-pedia
*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery