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What is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome is a collection of conditions that occur in patients who have undergone spinal fusion surgery, and it describes a number of problems that can occur after such an operation.

Nearly one in 10 people experience back pain, causing more disability than any other condition in the world—and for many, surgery may be the only option for relief. Up to 40% of patients experience continued pain after surgery, which is often referred to as Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS). 

Are you suffering from symptoms of a failed surgery? Take the first step to finding relief from your pain with our free interactive assessment below, and see how the experts at the C3 Spine can help.

How Do I Know if I'm Suffering From a Failed Surgery?

Although back surgeries are intended to return a patient's quality of life, some patients may continue to experience pain or limitations in performing daily activities. This continuation of symptoms is known a failed surgery. In general, a failed surgery means persistent or recurring symptoms in anyone who has had previous spinal surgery.

In order to make this diagnosis, an expert from C3 Spine will review a patient's treatment history and analyze the type of surgery that was performed. By comparing the records of the patient's symptoms before and after the surgery, as well as doing a physical exam and looking at all available imaging like MRIs and CT scans, our physicians will be able to determine how successful the previous surgery was and recommend further treatment.

Common Symptoms of Failed Surgery

Patients might feel like they got better for a little while, but then start to feel pain again. Or they might feel like their symptoms never got better—or perhaps even got worse than before. Their symptoms might have gone from back pain to leg pain or from leg pain to back pain, or both.

The common uniting symptom is that the patient has had a previous back surgery and is now experiencing the same back pain again, which is holding them back from their daily activities. 

Causes of Failed Surgery 

There are two primary reasons that a patient will undergo a back surgery in the first place: to decompress a nerve root in order to relieve pain or to stabilize a joint that is compressing a nerve root and causing pain.

So, the main cause of failed surgery —the reason that a patient might still be experiencing pain—is because the lesion or joint that the surgeon targeted in the original surgery was not actually the cause of the patient's pain.

There are a few risk factors that can be contributing causes to a failed surgery, including:

  • Further disc herniation 
  • Disc disease or degeneration
  • Arthritis
  • Unstable movement
  • Nerve damage within the nerve
  • Increases in scar tissue

If you are experiencing painful symptoms and have had a previous surgery meant to address this pain, you might have had a failed surgery. To learn more, start your diagnosis with our confidential interactive tool below.

How is a Failed Surgery Treated?

The treatment of your back pain will depend heavily on your original condition, the type of surgery that was previously performed, and a proper assessment of why the surgery failed. That’s why it’s so important to meet with an expert surgeon at C3 Spine in order to get a complete examination and custom treatment plan for your unique case.

Non-Surgical Treatments for Failed Surgery

After a careful assessment of your patient history, it’s possible that our physician will recommend non-surgical treatment first. These options could include:

  • Nerve blocks
  • Steroid injections
  • Facet block
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • NSAID medications
  • Physical training

Surgical Treatments for Failed Surgery

Alternatively, sometimes it is clear to a surgeon, based on imaging and other diagnostic tools, that the source of a patient’s pain can be fixed through a second surgery. If this is the case, one of our experts might recommend a new surgery to address this issue and eliminate your pain.

The type of surgery that will be recommended depends entirely on which one will help the most, but these are the most common surgeries we perform at C3 Spine:

  • Artificial disc replacement
  • Microdiscectomy
  • Microlaminectomy
  • Spinal fusion

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Patient Reviews

  • "Dr is very personal and professional! I recommend highly!"

    Mark Feller
  • "Best orthopedic Surgeon I had ever had I would recommend his practice to anyone."

    Jose Ortiz

  • "Amazing healthcare. I cannot express enough how well I was cared for by Dr. Callewart, Joe and their team. The office staff are lovely and helpful and patient. Neck surgery feels a little frightening, but no fear here, not one detail of your care will be overlooked."

    Hope Banks

  • "I’m weighed over 220 lbs and had a train wreck of a back. Almost 1 year ago I had to have 2 surgeries 4 days apart. As you can see, what Dr. Callewart and Joe were able to do is simply amazing. I highly recommend Dr. Callewart and his team for any of your surgical needs!"

    Waylon Parker

  • "I have had 2 surgeries by Dr Callewart. The last one was 3 years ago. He gave me a good part of my life back. I will always have mobility and loss of motion issues but my quality of life is good. I cannot say enough good things about him and Joe Nagy. At some point (hopefully not soon)know i will have another and really hope i can go back to him."

    Tim Tria

  • "Dr.Callewart and Dr.Joe are the best Dr.s around.Very attentive,patient and kind.Always a professional and they take great care of their patients.I've had several surgeries and they have taken great care of me.Recommend HIGHLY.Thanks for all you do."

    Lasonya Alexander

  • "Dr. Calewart and Joe are the best team in DFW"

    Nick W

  • "Trust them completely!!"

    Dora Ward

  • "Amazing doctor and staff!!! He and Joe truly care about their patients and has awesome personalities! You go in pain and leave smiling confident that your pain will soon be gone!"

    Candace Williams

  • "Have seen Dr Callewart and Joe for about 20 years! They are ALWAYS helpful and listen to any concerns I have! Could not be happier with Dr. Callewart and Joe Nagy and all of the staff I see. They are a great staff and of course Dr and P.A. He took over after 4 surgeries by someone else and have done everything possible to help correct the problems in my neck! I would recommed this Doctor to anyone having spinal problems!"

    Dianna Montgomery

  • "Dr Callewart is such a great well rounded dr. Love his staff .. even dr joe... the new chairs are not my favorite to sit in with my back issues and its alwayyssss hot. But i wouldn't trade him for any other dr.."

    Kelly Sullivan
  • "I love the professional environment and services they provide. My Dr. Callewart is very warm and friendly. Sometimes I forget that I'm talking to my Dr. because he makes me feel like we're old high school buddies! Lol! Couldn't have asked for a more Professional Dr. than Dr. Callewart who knows what he's doing! Thank you for all you do!"

    Rico Da Don
  • "Dr Calawart and Joe are the very best back doctors in the Dallas area. They are so kind and caring and the staff is awesome. When you have a problem they get you an appointment right away no waiting for days or weeks Love this group."

    Linda Jennings
  • "Dr Calewart and crew are very good at what they do. Carrying and compassionate are virtues that are hard to find in specialties, I have never found them to be anything less. Great bedside manor, and both Dr Calewart and Joe Naggy know their stuff. Great Team, with great suport from their staff."

    Rick Sims
  • "Dr. C. and Joe Nagy are the best doctors I have ever had. They have a wonderful staff including radiology , his dictationist, his scheduler and all the front desk staff. Thanks for taking such good care of me."

    Jose Aldrich
  • "The dr. & jo are the greatest I need one more fix.....please Lol Sonia"

    Sonia Myers
  • "Wouldnt go any where else. The staff is so friendly and doctor callawart is great but doc Joe is my favorite. So nice and listen to all your problems and his sense of humor is the best."

    Sheila Curry
  • "Dr.Callewart and his staff are always at there best when it comes to his patients ."

    Fida Fira
  • "I got an appointment quick and everyone was so helpful and nice. I tell anyone with back problems to call Dr. Callwart and get his help. He is very good."

    Gloria Shepherd
  • "I couldn't ask for a better Doctor. He cares about his Patients..."

    Sheryl Miller

Are you in pain?

Most patients experiencing pain can be seen by Dr. Callewart or his physician assistant the same day in Dallas and Addison, Texas.

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