Failed back syndrome describes the constellation of symptoms that appear after spinal surgery on either the cervical or lumbar regions. Most spinal surgery, such as a fusion, is performed to relieve pain. However, in many cases, the pain gets worse, doesn’t change, or doesn’t go away completely.
Several reasons are often pointed to in failed back and neck syndrome. First, back surgery itself can cause problems because the surgeon must operate close to large, important nerves. These nerves can easily get stretched, cut, or bruised during the course of the procedure. Second, some surgery is performed on those without a clear etiology of pain symptoms. For instance, surgery performed to fuse two lumbar vertebrae has a high rate of success when the disc is clearly the reason for the pain. In cases where the herniated disc cannot be proven with radiographic imagery, the success rate decreases. Finally, some back and neck pain is so severe that the surgery is unable to ease the pain, such as in chronic nerve compression, because the nerve may be too damaged by the original injury to ever heal entirely.