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What were your symptoms with failed back syndrome?????

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,623
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi All!!
I am just curious to find out how different everyone felt and the type of symptoms they had with failed back syndrome?
What type of testing you had, and what made you and your dr decide to do a revision.
Reason being just looking for personal experiences as this may be my issue. Will know when I get my cat scan.
Right now having a ton of pain.. My legs are the worse part of it. We thought it was the osteo arthritis in my knees but it is not.

Thanks and hope your all doing ok.
Terri :)


  • Terri hon , I am so sorry to hear that you are hurting so badly. I can't offer any advice on this subject but you know that I will always offer my support to you....take care sweetie....Miki
  • tonyttony Posts: 28
    edited 12/30/2014 - 7:51 PM
    Hey Terri, i will shed some light on the FBSS( Failed Back Surgery Syndrome) subject... first, let me tell you that i am no doc, but that i am only speaking from past and present experiences only; fbss is a real and painful condition; most docs will be more than happy to label you this if they can not find anything else wrong with you, then, they will send you on your way and wish you good luck. That was my experience; then i continued with the god awful leg and back pain; went to my PCP and complained and told him of my symptoms; oh, his reply was, that i was only there looking for drugs.. that xxxx me off; he is not the one who cant stand up after working an 8 hr. shift, unable to walk correctly and sitting for only 30 minutes, and he is not the one who is unable to maintain a healthy sex life and was facing divorce because of it. Wow, that is alot;I got mad as hell, went on my own and obtained a second opinion from my now current NS, and he actually listened to me, imagine that. He ran blood work, did a CT scan with and without contrast, did a bone scan, and obtained the MRI that i had 2 months prior that my 1st NS dismissed as normal. After all of the tests and waiting, he sat me down and explained the results of all the tests that he had ran on me; needless to say, i was not prepared to hear what he had to say. Non-union (pseudoarthosis, or failed fusion); extreme thick scar tissue; a couple of loose screws( my wife couldve told him that, lol); now i was off to the OR again. Here i am, 8 weeks out, and despite some nerve pain from my surgery, i am feeling better now than i have ever felt since 2000. I hope that this helps; symptoms of FBSS are different for everyone; i know pain, stiffness, clicking of hardware, and a number of other factors are typical. I would say look it up, talk to your doctor, and if he doesnt satisfy your needs, then keep looking until you find someone who will listen and understand and help you. I hope this helps; god bless .

    2 laminectomies; DDD; facet hypertrophy; high grade stenosis; fusion @L5-S1 in 2007; removal of hardware and re-fusion from L4-S1 in 2008
  • The first sign was after having a fusion the pain just never went away! Infact it increased.......... :jawdrop: it took an MRI and a CT scan to see what was going on inside and it showed that I was bone on bone and never fused at all.
  • I have a L4-L5-S1 fusion that is almost 20 years old now. Had no pain until 12-13years into it, after my third child. MRI showed another herniated disc above my fusion. Now,after 1 year of constant pain I am on disability and they are not sure if the fusion or the new disc is to blame. I have had MRIs, EEG, all sorts of steroid injections and PT, chiro..everything. Yesterday, I found this article and dropped it by my surgeons office after my latest MRI (my big toe has began dropping badly and I have to tape it up). My lower back hurts so bad down to the bones and my hips, plus now down to my foot. It is such a deep pain, unreal. Hope this helps.

    www.theassr.org American Society of Spine Radiology

    Provocation Lumbar Diskography at Previously Fused Lumbar Levels

    Interventional Spine

    Harjot S Dulai, MD,
    Walter S Bartynski, MD, ASSR Member
    William E Rothfus, MD, ASSR Member

    Scientific Paper


    To assess the provocation diskogram results and clinical value of performing provocation lumbar diskography at previously fused lumbar levels.

    Methods & Materials

    Over a three year period, 29 patients with prior lumbar fusion were identified who underwent provocative diskography and these cases were retrospectively reviewed.
    In 20 patients, residual pain similar to their previously treated back pain persisted and diskography included testing of the previously fused levels. In 9 patients, only levels adjacent to the previous lumbar fusion were studied.
    Twenty four post-fusion levels were studied in the 20 patients. Diskography results were evaluated and follow up assessed including subsequent surgical revision.


    Twelve of 24 (50%) previously fused levels demonstrated a positive and concordant pain response at diskography. Of the remaining 12 previously fused levels, 9 were negative and 3 demonstrated non-concordant pain.
    Adjacent level concordant pain was also demonstrated in 9 total patients-3 in patients with positive concordant fused levels, 4 in patients with negative fused levels, and 2 in patients with non-concordant fused levels.
    Surgical revision was performed at the previously fused level in 6 patients, all of which had demonstrated concordant pain during diskography. In three of these patients, additional inter-body fusion was also performed at an adjacent disc levels. Four fused levels demonstrated diskographic contrast leakage.
    Inter-body fusion was also performed at an adjacent level in two patients with negative response at the previously fused level.
    Overall, surgical revision was performed in 8 patients, of which 6 had concordant fusion level pain. The two patients without concordant fusion level pain had surgery at adjacent levels only.


    Pain can be identified by provocation lumbar diskography at previously fused lumbar levels and these are commonly surgically revised. Adjacent level provoked pain is not uncommon, and these levels may also undergo a primary operation or be included in a surgical revision.

  • hey girl i cant offer any advice but my soft huggs to you!!! i'm back on posting, yeah!!!!!!!!! xoxoxoxoxo
  • Hi Terri:

    I am sorry that you are in pain. I would have thought you would be feeling better by now. I know we had our surgeries around the same time. I hope you can find some useful information on FBSS or what ever is your condition and feel better.

  • I'm having problems as my L5/S1 is not fused. I'm waiting on CT and possible additional surgery. My pain is getting to the point that it's almost worse than pre-op. Tony? What did they do to re-do your surgery? Did they take the old hardware out and put new stuff in? Did they take a different approach? Terri-I just posted about strange leg pain...wondering if yours is similar? I feel for you my spiney sister!!! :( -Andrea
  • alcb... they removed my old hardware since there was no evidence of fusion at L5-S1 level, then they re-fused from L4-S1 and installed all new hardware and did all the bone and bmp all over again.. i can relate on the pain being worse than it was before surgery.. my heart goes out to you.. may you find comfort and you wiil be in my prayers
  • Terry:

    There is an article on this site about FBSS.

  • Appreciate the concern and information. It stinks when you think that you'll be "fixed" and then find out they only did half of what they needed to. The pain seems to get worse everyday. I'm having drawing pain in my L leg (lower quad area), sciatic pain in the posterior L leg, and weakness. This is along with the usual back and hip pain.
    Oh well, what can you do??? :? -Andrea

  • Andrea, I had my surgery about two weeks after you ...the first couple of months were good, then I started with right foot pain and numbness(which, before surgery, there was only left leg symptoms). Now as the months go by I have terrible pain in my legs, especially my thighs. When I wake in the mornings, I can't just lie in bed, I HAVE to get up because my legs ache so bad. I did not have this before surgery.

    I have not read much about FBSS. I had an MRI several weeks ago and see my surgeon tomorrow. It really is a cruel twish when you have a spinal fusion and then you aren't "fixed".
  • Kbrady- let me know how your MRI turns out. I'm very curious. I'm waiting to hear back from my surgeon as to when I'll get my CT done. I'm going to schedule my f/u from that in Aug. ... if I can wait tht long! I really feel for you that it's in the other leg! I had started with pain in my R leg (my pre-surg. problems were L) but it seemed to settle down. Now it's all just in the same leg, just in the front (anterior) now also. What level(s) did you have done?Let me know how your appt goes! -Andrea
  • Hi Terri,

    I had my surgery back in 2004. My recovery was very slow but I did make progress. About 18 months post-op I remember being slightly disappointed that I wasn't better than I was, because I still had a lot of residual pain. However, over the coming year things continued to improve and in the end I was going really well. I still had back pain but it was manageable and as long as I didn't do anything stupid I was pretty happy with things.

    However, things changed starting last summer. It began with sciatic pain returning in my left leg. This got progressively worse, as did my back pain. By the middle of October last year I was in such a bad way that I have been unable to work since. The pain I'm having is different than before the surgery because the sciatic pain isn't consistently in one place like it was before. I have pain in every single part of my lower body, from the area around my hardware right the way down to my toes. The pains are shooting, stabbing, throbbing, dull ache, stinging. I have intermittent loss of sensation in my lower limbs and a constant feeling of tingling and "fizzing" in my feet. At times my legs literally give out on me and I cannot walk more than 10 metres without 2 crutches.

    All my scans have come back looking normal so that rules out any disc problems. I have no signs of infection or loose screws. My blood tests have all come back clear. So from these results, by a process of elimination, my surgeon has decided that my pain must be coming from my hardware and that it needs to come out. It will need to be replaced with something - what that something is is yet to be decided but a single level fusion is looking quite probable.

    Don't be surprised if they can't find anything specific on your scans. At first I was really upset about all the negative results but at least I know my other discs are still healthy and that's a good sign.

    Good luck with everything, Spicey
  • Terri,
    You want to know about the symptoms of FBS? Well...here is my story: I had a fusion of L5S1 ten years ago and had quite a few years of pain relief. Last year I had an abrupt onset of pain. It radiated out from my back, down the outside of my right hip and into my right knee. It felt like my right knee was being pulled outward. I saw an orthopedic and he said I needed knee surgery. He shot it with cortizone, which, of course, didn't help. I saw one neurologist who did an MRI (at a place he owned and profited from) which showed a herniation above the fusion. He gave me a lydocane patch for the pain, which, of course, didn't touch the pain. After eight months of complaining and trying many different meds I went to a good teaching hospital and the first thing they did was an Xray and a CAT scan which had never been done. The neurosurgeon said he couldn't believe none of the other doctors didn't do these simple tests because I had been walking around with a broken fusion and was risking a lot. The scan showed that one of the screws made of cadavor bone was completely gone and the other one was in broken pieces and there was a gaping hole where the nonunion was. I had a revision with pedicle screws, the new surgeon used the broken bone he took out to make a paste to aid in the fusion. From two weeks post op I noticed the knee pain was completely gone so that was obviously part of the nerve pain radiating from the broken fusion. I also had I.T. Band Syndrome and my knee would buckle with weakness a lot. Good luck with your situation. Get lots of opinions and trust your gut.
  • I want to thank all of you for taking the time out to respond :)
    Now that you all have described your pain, which is very hard to explain to someone who has not endured it, its all making sense.
    Mornings are horrid. From my throacic disks down.
    I start off walking ok then about 4 minutes into doing so, you can start to feel that sharp pain down the outside of each leg. Then my ankles do not want to bend and the hips do not want to move. I end up turning my feet outward just to drag them to take another step. I usually end up leaning against something or finding the closest seat. I finally get my legs up and here comes the tingling/some numbness.
    The pain is nothing I have ever experienced even before surgery.
    The pain in my legs started when I fell down the stairs 2x's in Nov&Dec of 06. I would walk and it felt like just my ankles were broke. We thought after surgery this would go away. Well bingo it has gotten worse. I did great from Sept-March of 08 I thought I was in the clear. SI joint injections took the burning pain away but nothing else.
    The legs really have me concerned. It is now starting to interfere with my social and personal life. Im only 41 and I can really say this SUCKS }:)
    I am currently on tramadol & soma. Not giving any relief. I just sit here and try to keep my mind off the pain.
    Will update more after the catscan. Interesting to see what they find. The hardware is all in place from the x-rays. But his words were "if the SI joint injection does not work, its a good possibility your not fusing" UGGHHH..
    Sorry this is so long. This is my line to the outside world at this time.
    Terri :)
  • Hi Terri,

    It sounds like you're really struggling. My hardware is all in place currently too but it doesn't mean I'm not in agony! I hope the scan gives you some answers and more importantly some solutions. I know this is not a nice position to be in. And this is not a long post so please talk as much as you want! Hugs back at ya! Spicey
  • I am going to look into that, my screws are made of cadavor bone also (had an MRI yesterday and they did not know what the circles were in my spine..are you kidding me?) My fusion is almost 20 years old and I am going to ask about the possibility of broken bone, never had a CT or more than a frontal x-ray. Wow, comparing stories can help!
  • I feel for you because I know the feeling....I am 17 months post op from revision surgery C4-C7 and still in pain...my left arm since May has not stopped hurting....I do have perm nerve damage as was shown from EMG/NCV....my lower back L4L5 is in trouble narrowing with bone spurs...legs will go numb when I sit down after standing or walking for 5 or more min. My neck concerns me most...I have a lot of hardware and in reality can anyone expect to feel great after all this is done to them??? I think surgeons expect far too much after fusion surgery....I had a corpectomy, at the time did not know what that was but now I understand more....the revision was done for non fusion....it's a pain you will know, never goes away. I have come to terms that I will never feel good again....

  • Reading this thread has helped me cope a bit with the news that a "nonfusion" is the result of my plif L4/5 in 09/07. I knew fusion healing is slow but I had no relief from leg/but & disabling low back pain. :? I thought I was nuts, until NS saw no fusion in xray on June 16th. I have an MRI with and without contrast this Tuesday and follow up with NS the 22nd. I am sad and frustrated and a bit numb with this news. I am hoping to understand more at some point but for now am focused on the things in life that I am grateful for.
    Good thoughts to all of you,
  • I haven't seen you around the boards in awhile and thought you were off enjoying a bit of good time between all of the medical traumas you've had. I am glad to see you but sorry to see that your're back with continued problems. I hope you get some actionable news soon. Terri
  • I have had 2 surgeries now and failed fusion identified 6 months ago. I am about 20 months post 1st fusion.

    Question - when do they declare a fusion failed?
    and If a fusion has failed after such a long space of time, can it heal?

    I had revision surgery 6 months ago and am in agony. Mostly the pain is similar to what I had all along but I did get some releif after my initial surgery for about 4 months, then as my mobility got better my apin nose dived.
    Well, I had a faile union at my last scan, will it change now after all this time?
    Any ideas / suggestions would be great...a little glimmer of hope........
  • hey . . . it's a long walk
    apparently it can take up to a year for a full solid fusion to occur. evidence of the start of a fusion should show up on plain xray after 6 weeks but can take up to three months. this is based on all the stuff i have read on the internet and i have read lots. lol . . .. lots of spare time since May. i had posterior cervical fusion twice.

    6 weeks after my first fusion it did fuse however my c2 slipped and it fused on an angle . . . .nice . . thanks to a wire letting loose. this time i got wire, rods and screws. i am five weeks post op and i am going to see my family doc because my NS does not return phone calls and i am really worried about it.

    i get wierd different pain around my c1 c2 and popping creaking sounds.
  • That sound really good...

    i get wierd different pain around my c1 c2 and popping creaking sounds


    Thanks for the info. Following my recent operation the dcs have decided I am finally fused. Thank Goodness!
  • How quickly we forget we write things WHEW.

    Well since all of that I had revision surgery on Sept 17th as most of you know.

    Did it help my symptoms.??? To early to tell. Legs no totally different problem.
    Burning pain YES YES YES again like it did last yr for the spondy. Plus they fused L4 just in case even though there was nothing wrong with it. Just a very mild herniation.

    So basically none of my symptoms had equalled failed back sydrome.
    Except for 2 weeks before surgery both legs started going numb when I put them up.
    That is gone.
    Now I have new numbness in my left leg/foot HMMMMMMMM
    They said give it time to go away.
    It goes numb no matter how I am postitioned.

    And mabye I do not feel immediate relief with either surgery because I did surgery so fast?? Sounds right.
    I did not let it get bad enough and wait. Not sure as there is never a correct answer for that.

    Now with my cervical , that also was done fast. Within 3 months. Did I feel immidate relief from that? YES YES YES YES YES. Everything was gone when I woke up.

    So its hard for me to relate to people when they have fusions in the lumbar and say they wake up with their pain gone.

    I'm a whiner always will be =)) =)) =)) =)) So I could not handle any pain. I think thats why I jumped at having surgery so fast all 3 times.

    I know some people wait years. I just couldn't do that.
    I totally have the fullest respect for people that do wait years. Do to not getting a proper diagnosis, due to insurance purposes, or money issues. I applaud you for living in that type of pain =D> =D> =D>
    You are the strong people in my book ;)

    Wishing everyone a pain free week >:D< >:D< >:D<
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