Failed back surgery syndrome

Pain Med. 2011 Apr;12(4):577-606. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01089.x. Epub 2011 Apr 4.


Background: Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a chronic pain condition that has considerable impact on the patient and health care system. Despite advances in surgical technology, the rates of failed back surgery have not declined. The factors contributing to the development of this entity may occur in the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative periods. Due to the severe pain and disability this syndrome may cause, more radical treatments have been utilized. Recent trials have been published that evaluate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of therapeutic modalities such as spinal cord stimulation for the management of patients with failed back surgery.

Review summary: This article will describe the epidemiology and etiology of FBSS. The importance of prevention will be emphasized. In those patients with established FBSS, a guide to interdisciplinary evaluation and management will be outlined. Special attention will focus on recent trials that have studied the efficacy of more invasive procedures such as spinal cord stimulation. Finally, a suggested management pathway is presented.

Conclusion: FBSS is a challenging clinical entity with significant impact on the individual and society. To better prevent and manage this condition, knowledge of the factors contributing to its development is necessary. While research on FBSS has increased in recent years, perhaps the best strategy to reduce incidence and morbidity is to focus on prevention. Patients diagnosed with FBSS should be managed in an interdisciplinary environment. More radical treatments for FBSS have now been extensively studied providing clinicians with much needed evidence on their efficacy. Incorporating these results into our current knowledge provides a basis on which to construct an evidence-based guide on how best to manage patients who suffer from FBSS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Analgesia / methods
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cost of Illness
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome / economics
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome / etiology*
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome / therapy
  • Humans
  • Orthopedic Procedures / adverse effects
  • Orthopedic Procedures / economics
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome