What Is Failed Back Surgery Syndrome?

Failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is the term often used to describe persistent pain following back or spine surgery. Spine surgery is performed to:

  • Decompress pinched nerve roots
  • Stabilize a segment of the spine that is moving abnormally
  • Correct spinal deformity

Unfortunately, spine surgery cannot directly cure pain. It is only able to change the anatomy of the spine that is a probable cause of back pain.

Incidence of FBSS

  • An estimated 10 to 40 percent of people undergoing back surgery are affected.
  • Even with the best surgeon and outcomes, surgery is no more than 95 percent effective.

Functional Neurosurgery Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
The Functional Neurosurgery Program specialists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital work in integrated teams to provide patients with a multidisciplinary approach to their care, including:

  • Assessment by a fellowship-trained neurologist in movement disorders and epilepsy
  • Comprehensive pharmacological therapy
  • Neurosurgical evaluations for deep brain stimulation (DBS), epilepsy surgery, pain surgery, intrathecal medication infusion and other therapeutic procedures
  • The opportunity to participate in clinical research trials
  • Physical, occupational and speech therapy through Northwestern Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago
  • Social work services: consultation, counseling, support groups and access to community services and resources
  • Educational programs
  • Learning materials: books, videos, audiotapes and internet resources
  • Neuropsychology services

The board-certified neurologists at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. They diagnose and treat patients with a full range of neurological disorders, including failed back surgery syndrome.