Sufferers of post laminectomy syndrome, also known as failed back surgery syndrome, experience chronic pain in the neck, back or legs after spinal surgery. Around 10-15% of back surgery patients develop this syndrome.
Some individuals with back pain opt for surgery to relieve these symptoms. The surgeon attempts to correct the source of the pain, often by removing the lamina (laminectomy) in order to decrease compression on the nerve or to relieve injury to the spinal nerve root, though any operation on the spine may result in failed back syndrome. While many surgeries successfully eliminate the original chronic pain, some patients report lingering pain even after a significant recovery period, indicating that the surgery was unsuccessful and may even have caused additional problems.
The reasons for failed surgery are many. Sometimes the patient didn’t need the surgery in the first place. In others cases, further damage to the nerve root occurs during the surgery. This kind of damage often does not heal and can lead to ongoing pain; nerve damage that does heal may do so awkwardly, further compounding the problem. Scar tissue may also interfere with proper nerve function. Surgical delays, infections, reherniation, and pre-existing spinal issues can also contribute to the problem.
Pain profiles differ by patient. Some patients may only experience mild discomfort, while others’ pain may be so severe that it destroys any semblance of quality of life. Some feel dull aches in the spinal column, while others report symptoms akin to sciatica, a condition characterized by sharp low back pain that may radiate to the buttocks and legs. Sometimes the back may become more sensitive to heat and pressure.
This pain can lead to further issues, such as depression, weakness, insomnia, and fatigue.
Treatment of low back pain and other failed back symptoms depends on the case. A pain management specialist will put together a specific plan to account for the patient’s original diagnosis and the new symptoms.
Treatment regimens may include physical therapy, stimulation of the spinal cord, injections into the spine, manipulation of the spine, and medication management. In some cases, the pain management specialist will recommend surgery to correct the damage caused by the initial procedure.