Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome


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Understanding Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome

Patients who have been dealing with chronic neck or low back pain often are relieved after finally deciding to move forward with spinal surgery. Every patient’s hope is to have that “one and done” procedure that resolves all symptoms. Unfortunately, many patients that we see at the VSI have had an outside surgery and not achieved their expected goal or returned to their quality of life. Our job as spinal specialists is to educate each patient about their specific spinal issues and review all treatment options available. Sometimes for those that have failed prior spinal surgery that may involve another surgical procedure. See below to learn more about why our center may be the best location to treat your prior failed spinal surgery.

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Because each patient’s circumstances are different, their symptoms may present differently. Often, patients seek care because they had a previous surgery and never felt fully improved after that procedure. Some patients also will describe pain that worsens after surgery or returns shortly after. These symptoms can include neck, mid or low back pain -possibly extending into the arms and/or legs. Patients may also experience numbness and tingling as well. It’s important to report these ongoing symptoms to your doctor and seek a second opinion if they aren’t resolving.

When to Seek Treatment

If you’re noticing symptoms associated with Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome and suspect an issue, it’s crucial to consult a board-certified spinal specialist for a second opinion. Reach out promptly to a certified spine surgeon for an accurate diagnosis and timely treatment.

Dismissing or ignoring your post-surgical symptoms can lead to larger problems and it’s important to seek care as quickly as possible. Early intervention can significantly improve your overall well-being and provide a broader range of treatment options, which may decrease as symptoms persist. The key to a successful and speedy recovery lies in addressing the root of the pain with your spine specialist as soon as symptoms arise.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines based on our expertise in spine care over the past three decades, recognizing that each patient’s symptoms may be unique.

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Common Causes

Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome

The fear of Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome is felt by many frustrated patients who are dealing with back pain or nerve complications and are now contemplating an additional spine surgery. The spine is a very complicated part of the human body, and surgery in this area is delicate and intricate. Luckily, for patients suffering with a Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome, the number of options available (and the potential for success of corrective surgery) has improved immensely over the last few decades. At VSI, we are one of the unique centers in the nation who specialize in resolving Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome for patients. If you suffer with pain after spine surgery, we will pinpoint the root cause and provide modern and effective solutions to improve your quality of life!


Pseudarthrosis of the spine is also referred to as a non-union and means ‘false joint’. It is the result of a failed spinal fusion. Pseudarthrosis can occur at any place where spinal fusion was attempted and presents as either axial (neck or back) or radicular (arms or leg) pain that occurs months to years after a previous lumbar fusion. One of the goals of fusion surgery is for the bones to heal together or “weld” into one solid piece of bone. For fusion surgeries, bone graft is used to achieve fusion and the fusion heals much in the same way a broken bone heals in a cast. If the bones do not “weld together” properly, then motion may continue across the area. For some patients, motion in that area can cause pain similar to that of a broken bone that never heals. Many patients with pseudarthrosis do not have any particular symptoms, and for these patients further treatment and evaluation is not always needed.

Diagnosing Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome

It is important to consult a spine specialist to discern if your symptoms are normal and expected post-surgery, or if there is need for further treatment to resolve your symptoms. At your consultation, your records will be reviewed thoroughly and you will undergo a comprehensive physical exam. Your spine specialist may also require updated diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays or MRI.

Once our experts have all of this information, they will work with you to develop a personalized plan for you moving forward.

Treatment Options

Treatment for Failed Prior Surgery Syndrome could include, but is not limited to:

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