This retrospective study includes 53 patients who underwent reoperation after failure of lumbar disc surgery to relieve pain. All patients had leg pain before reoperation, which was successful in 28% of cases. Most clinical features, such as persistence or mode of recurrence of pain, radicular quality of pain, positive straight-leg raising, and myelographic root sleeve defects, were not helpful in predicting successful and unsuccessful reoperations. However, a significantly larger percentage of women than men had successful reoperations. Patients who had past or pending compensation claims, who had sensory loss involving more than one dermatome, or who failed to have myelographic dural sac indentations resembling those caused by a herniated disc did poorly with reoperation. A very convincing myelographic defect appears to be needed to justify reoperation at a previously unoperated location. Excision of scar alone or dorsal rhizotomy was of no avail in these cases.