What is Failed Back Syndrome & Surgery Failure?


The Case for Stem Cell Therapy to Avoid Surgery Failure & Failed Back Syndrome

To say that surgery failure in treating acute or chronic back pain is disheartening is an understatement. Yet countless patients regularly come away from back surgery with no relief or, in some cases, with worse pain than when they went into surgery. It happens so often, in fact, that there’s a name for it: failed back syndrome (sometimes call failed back surgery syndrome or FBSS). It is notable that no other type of surgery has an equivalent term. For example, no one is diagnosed with “failed cardiac surgery syndrome” or “failed knee surgery syndrome.”

The term “failed back syndrome” is technically a misnomer since it’s not really a syndrome. FBSS is a sweeping term intended to depict the post-surgical pain and/or complications that remain unresolved when back or spinal cord surgeries don’t render successful results. The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI), a leading regenerative medicine clinic based in the United States, reports that post-surgical failed back syndrome is a frequent reason why patients go to NSI for back pain therapy after traditional surgery has let them down.

So, why does back surgery fail? And how can patients be healed when it does?

Reasons Why Failed Back Syndrome Occurs

To understand how failed back syndrome can happen, it helps to first understand what spine surgery can accomplish.

Many people are surprised that spine surgery really only attempts to do two things. They are:

  • The decompression of a pinched nerve root
  • The stabilization of a diseased or injured joint

While identifying the probable cause of the patient’s back pain has improved over the years, it is by no means a perfect science. In fact, the number one cause of ineffective back surgery is that the perceived injury addressed during the operation winds up not being the cause of the person’s pain.

But there are other reasons why failed back syndrome occurs after surgery. Among them are:

  • Lesion transfer after spine fusion surgery
  • Solid fusion failure (the failure to create solid bone between adjoining vertebra)
  • Recurrent spinal stenosis or disc herniation
  • Inadequate decompression of a nerve root
  • The formation of scar tissue around a nerve root
  • Spinal implant failure

The Most Common Types of Pain Associated with Failed Back Syndrome

Surgery failure can result in various types of pain associated with failed back syndrome. In many cases, the initial pain that brought the person to the surgical table may be resolved immediately after the operation. It can take 3 months or more for pain to re-develop and cause failed back syndrome.

For example: in spinal decompression surgery, the nerve root generally takes a while to heal. Because of this, the surgery really can’t be declared as either a success or failure until weeks or months afterward.

In fact, pain continues for as many as 20% of people who undergo decompression surgery.

In some cases the pain doesn’t end even after the nerve begins to heal, and numbness, tingling, or weakness persist for as much as a year. If the symptoms of failed back syndrome remain for this long, the chances of resolving the pain and symptoms with more surgery are slim to none and the nerve damage may be deemed permanent by some medical experts.

Another hallmark of failed back syndrome is the recurrence of stenosis or spinal disc herniation after surgery. Many spine clinics tout relief from these two conditions as if to imply that the patient will be pain-free for life after surgery. However, spinal stenosis can return even years after the procedure.

In the case of disc herniation pain may be alleviated immediately following surgery, but can return abruptly. This category of failed back syndrome is called recurrent lumbar disc herniation.

Other Reasons for Back Surgery Failure

Of course the majority of surgeons are experienced, well-trained, and ethical medical professionals. But they are every bit as human as the rest of us, which means mistakes can be made.

Surgical errors are also among the reasons for failed back syndrome. These can include:

  • Missed fragments of a disc or bone that may cause a nerve to remain pinched, resulting in continued pain and the need for a second procedure.
  • Surgery performed at the wrong level of the spine.
  • A discectomy causes more trauma rather than eliminating it (a discectomy is a type of surgery designed to remove herniated disc matter that presses on a nerve root or the spinal cord).
  • A part of the nerve root remains pinched after decompression surgery.

Making Scar Tissue a Surgical Scape Goat

Even the best of us –surgeons or otherwise- sometimes grasp at straws when the reason for a problem isn’t immediately obvious. When it comes to failed back syndrome, scar tissue is often held up as the reason why pain hasn’t ended or has worsened.

Scar tissue is an essential and natural part the healing process. Every patient undergoing surgery will develop scar tissue afterward. And while scar tissue may worsen the pain and symptoms of failed back syndrome, it is very rarely the cause of it. When a medical professional offers up scar tissue as the sole explanation for pain that continues after surgery, frankly, the excuse is a bit of a cheat.

Often, there is little to no evidence that scar tissue is the direct cause of pain.

There are some rare cases in which scar tissue is the direct cause of post-surgical pain associated with failed back syndrome. But scar tissue too often serves as a convenient clinical explanation even when there is little to no evidence supporting the claim.

There are far more likely scenarios that are the cause of failed back syndrome pain. These include:

  • Secondary problems that need to be addressed.
  • The lesion that was the focus of the surgery wasn’t the source of the person’s pain.

In fact, the only way that scar tissue may actually cause post-surgical pain is when fibrous adhesions begin to bind the lumbar nerve. This is called epidural fibrosis. When this happens, the pain mounts gradually sometime between 6 to 12 weeks after surgery. Unrelenting pain that flares years after an operation, or that persists immediately or within a few months after surgery, is not due to scar tissue formation.

Surgery for Back or Spinal Pain Should be a Last Resort, not the First

Technology, science, and medical breakthroughs have all brought about an era of safer surgery. But surgery was always intended as a last resort to be used after less- or non-invasive therapies and treatments have been tried. Surgery, no matter how advanced today, remains invasive and risky. The very fact that there is a post-operative condition known as failed back syndrome highlights this.

Yet in our evermore commercialized world, there are many who stand to profit by promoting surgery as the first resort. This can lead to compromised ethics where medical professionals recommend surgery that is far more expensive and risk-laden than other means that are highly successful in treating illnesses, injuries, or chronic conditions without the inherent complications and costs involved in surgery, as well as promote faster healing and recovery.

We are in a golden age of advanced medicine that further reduces the need for surgery.

Many people have yet to learn that regenerative medicine methods like stem cell therapies and platelet rich plasma treatments have already been in use in the United States for a number of years. In particular, the development of adipose-derived stem cell therapy has been responsible for a golden age of medicine that further reduces the need for surgery.

Stem cells are microscopic packets of potential that have the ability to become whatever type of cell the body needs for repair, re-growth, and rejuvenation. Adipose stem cells are those that are harvested from the fatty layer that lies just beneath the skin are especially potent. They are easily harvested directly from the patient for therapeutic use for a wide variety of medical conditions, including back and spine problems.

This breakthrough has lead to procedures that are performed on an outpatient basis and are inherently safer and less risky than surgery. Failed back syndrome is associated with surgery, after all, not regenerative therapy.

Stem Cell Therapy in the United States

Though regenerative medicine is an umbrella term for several advanced medical methods, it is popularly referred to as stem cell medicine or stem cell therapy. Clinics that practice regenerative medicine are commonly known as stem cell clinics.

As with all medical procedures, stem cell therapy must be done by a trained, licensed physician. Legally operating stem cell clinics in the U.S. must adhere to the guidelines set out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With that in mind, the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) offers advice on how to find a legitimate regenerative medical facility.

What to Look for in a Stem Cell Medical Clinic

When searching for a qualified stem cell therapy center it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equal. Stem cells, when used properly, are your body’s most powerful means for healing that can repair everything from ligaments, tendons, and cartilage to organs including your liver, pancreas and lungs and even neurological tissue like your brain, nerves and spinal cord.

Unfortunately, the majority of so-called “regenerative medicine clinics” in the world aren’t trained in the latest, most technologically advanced procedures and will, therefore, provide poor results if any.

The good news is the National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) has established the most advanced stem cell and platelet rich plasma procedures on the planet which has drawn patients from all over the world as well as professional athletes and celebrities because they are recognized as the best in the world at stem cell therapy.


What makes NSI Stem Cell the top stem cell clinic in the world is demonstrated in 5 key areas:

1. Highly trained and experienced, board-certified doctors and team members who have performed stem cell procedures on thousands of patients with incredible results.

2. Cutting edge procedures utilizing all that regenerative medicine has to offer for many chronic degenerative conditions.

3. Leading scientific researchers who follow the advanced guidelines to maximize the healing potential of your stem cells and to maintain compliance and ethics

4. Use of only the most potent and viable resource of living, viable stem cells and harvested on the same day. No vial that you can purchase will contain living stem cells. If there is no harvest then there are no stem cells.

5. Post-operative guidance for supporting stem-cell growth including rehabilitation, diet and supplement protocols. NSI is a full-service healthcare center focused on patient outcomes. Stem cell therapy is only one tool used to help improve patients’ lives.

Patients have raved about their experience at NSI Stem Cell Clinics testifying that it was their unique cutting-edge procedures that helped them experience a breakthrough when nothing else worked.

If you want to learn more about NSI Stem Cell Clinics, you can set up a complimentary consultation today to see if you are a candidate. You can contact the National Stem Cell Institute at (877) 278-3623.

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* Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary. As each patient’s problem is different, each treatment must be tailored around your specific needs.