“The failed back surgery syndrome”: Definition and therapeutic algorithms — An update


Corresponding author. Address: Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, AZ Nikolaas, Moerlandstraat, 1, 9100 Sint Niklaas, Belgium. Tel.: +32 3 760 2815, +32 475 24 16 90. E-mail address: vanbuyten@skynet.be


Approximately 30% of patients experience persistent or recurrent low back and/or pain projecting into the legs following technically adequate lumbosacral surgery. Such pain conditions are often alluded to as the failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). FBSS represents a significant clinical and economic concern. The treatment of FBSS presents a challenge to physicians, as conservative therapies and spinal reoperations are often unsuccessful — if not a significant cause (besides fibrosis) of the persistent pain syndrome is found at the post-operative examinations. Neuropathic pain radiating into the leg(s) is often the main component of this persistent and disabling syndrome. In this case, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been shown to be a successful therapeutic option. Studies have demonstrated that up to 60% of implanted patients experience 50% or more pain relief following SCS. Moreover, SCS has been shown to improve both quality of life and functional status in a significant number of patients. In order to address the challenge of managing both chronic back and leg pain, a multidisciplinary group of physicians experienced in pain management and spinal surgery assembled to discuss and formulate a treatment strategy for FBSS, based on a systematic review of the literature that focused on the role of SCS. The outcome of these discussions however remained unpublished why an update, taking into account also the moderns technologies has been performed.

The development of new treatment algorithms should allow, easier, more rational and effective management of this common and clinically — as well as economically — important problem.