Spinal Cord Stimulation in Failed Back Surgery Syndrome: An Integrative Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Studies

Neuromodulation. 2022 Jul;25(5):657-670. doi: 10.1016/j.neurom.2021.11.013. Epub 2022 Feb 10.


Background: Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an established therapy of failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), although the effects on daily functioning, quality of life (QoL), and patients' expectations, experiences, and satisfaction remain elusive. The current integrative review aimed to summarize the overall effects of SCS in patients with FBSS on pain relief, health-related QoL, and daily activities.

Materials and methods: PubMed, CINAHL, Embase, ClinicalTrials.gov, gray literature, and reference lists of relevant articles were searched for additional papers. All included studies were assessed for risk of bias using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Following the methods of Whittemore and Knafl, an integrative review and a meta-analysis were performed.

Results: In total, 16 articles were included; 11 articles presented quantitative outcomes, and five articles presented qualitative data. Lower back pain, leg pain, overall pain, Oswestry Disability Index, EuroQol Five Dimensions Health Questionnaire three-level/five-level, and the physical component score of Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) significantly improved during all follow-up moments. Only the mental component score of the SF-36 did not significantly improve, compared with baseline. Heterogeneity was diversely present among the studies. Patients' expectations and goals were disparate, although patients seemed to desire a return to their pre-FBSS state. Experiences with regard to the outcomes showed that patients largely recuperated after SCS, although limitations were still present. Patients also expressed inconvenience with regard to the trial period, implantation location, and recharging of the implantable pulse generator.

Conclusions: SCS showed beneficial effects on different domains of life in patients with FBSS. The quantitative analyses suggest an overall improvement in most domains, although patients' experiences show that limitations in daily life and living with the SCS system persist. Multiple extensive preoperative counseling sessions and discussions with patients are deemed necessary to improve patient satisfaction and meet their expectations. Shared decision-making and provision of complete information are key factors for success.

Keywords: Expectations; failed back surgery syndrome; integrative review; quality of life; spinal cord stimulation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome* / psychology
  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain*
  • Pain Management
  • Quality of Life
  • Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation* / methods
  • Treatment Outcome