Interventional pain management for failed back surgery syndrome

Arif Hussain, Michael Erdek

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Patients who suffer from the condition known as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) present to the offices of physicians, surgeons, and pain specialists alike in overwhelming numbers. This condition has been defined as persistent back and/or leg pain despite having completed spinal surgery. As lumbar surgery continues to grow in prevalence, so will the number patients suffering from FBSS. It is important for physicians treating this population to expand their knowledge of FBSS etiologies and appropriate diagnostic imaging modalities, combined with confirmatory diagnostic injections, and proper technique for interventional pain procedures. In doing so, the physician may adequately be prepared to manage these complex cases in the future, ideally with the support of stronger evidence. Management begins with a systematic evaluation of common FBSS etiologies such as new-onset stenosis, recurrent herniated nucleus pulposus (HNP), epidural fibrosis, pseudarthrosis, and others. History and physical may be supplemented by imaging including X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, or computed tomography myelography. Certain diagnoses may be confirmed with diagnostic procedures such as intra-articular injections, medial branch blocks, or transforaminal nerve root blocks. Once an etiology is determined, a multidisciplinary approach to treatment is most effective. This includes exercise or physical therapy, psychological counseling, medication, and interventional procedures. The most invasive treatment option, short of revision surgery, is spinal cord stimulation. This intervention has a number of studies demonstrating its efficacy and cost-effectiveness in this population. Finally, revision surgery may be used when indicated such as with progressive neurological impairment or with issues regarding previous surgical instrumentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-78
Number of pages15
JournalPain Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Back pain
  • Back pain with radiation
  • Back pain without radiation
  • Epidural analgesia
  • Low back pain
  • Neurosurgical procedures
  • Pain
  • Pain disorder
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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