Dr. Kamal Thapar, MD., PhD., FRCSC., FAANS
1200 Oakleaf Way, Suite A, Altoona, WI 54720

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome

Failed back surgery syndrome is a disorder when individuals continue to experience symptoms after a surgical procedure. This can include pain, weakness, and/or numbness. These patients experience back pain and may have difficulty returning to normal activities of daily living.


– Smoking, which can impair fusion of the graft

– Formation of scar tissue

– Recurring or persistent disc disease at adjacent segments

– Segmental instability (movement of the vertebrae with position changes)

– Pseudoarthrosis (failure of the graft to fuse)


– Pain in the back and may radiate into one or both legs

– Abnormal sensations in the lower extremities including numbness and tingling


If a patient continues to have back pain after a fusion operation, the cause of back pain should be explored. A combination of imaging studies may be used including x-rays, MRI, CT, and CT myelogram.


Depending on the cause of the failed back surgery syndrome, an additional surgical procedure may be required to alleviate the individual’s symptoms. In other cases, patients may benefit from non-operative treatment options to treat their pain including physical therapy, interventional pain management, nerve stimulation and/or medications.