Dr. Pat ThomasChiropractor & Veteran

Failed Back Surgery

Failed Back Surgey

Scar tissue formation is part of the normal healing process after a spine surgery. While scar tissue can be a cause of back pain or leg pain, the scar tissue itself is rarely painful since it does not contain nerve endings. Rather, the principal mechanism of back or leg pain is thought to be the binding of the spinal nerve root by fibrous adhesions.

A patient continuing to suffer from continued back and/or leg pain after discectomy or laminectomy surgery can have his pain pinpointed by a comprehensive physical examination. Additionally, there are a few things that can be done before and/or after spine surgery to potentially limit the formation of scar tissue over the operative disc. Low level cold laser treatment is one technique employed by Dr. Thomas to speed the healing process.

About 200,000 lumbar laminectomy and discectomy (microdiscectomy) surgeries are performed annually in the United States. Approximately 90% of these surgeries result in a good outcome. For the remaining 10% who do not do well after spine surgery, the search for a solution to continued pain begins with an assessment of the likely cause of that pain.

Clinic Profile of Epidural Fibrosis

Symptoms associated with epidural fibroses often appear at 6 to 12 weeks following back surgery. Often preceded by an initial period of pain relief, the patient slowly develops recurrent leg pain. Sometimes, the improvement occurs immediately after back surgery, but occasionally the nerve damage from the original pathology makes the nerve heal more slowly.

In general, if the patient experiences continued leg pain directly after spine surgery, but continues to improve over the next three months, he should continue to improve. If, however, there is NO improvement by six months post-operatively, the spine surgery is likely to have been unsuccessful, and the patient will probably continue to have back or leg pain.

Following a comprehensive physical examination and appropriate diagnostic techniques, the responsible pathology can often be pinpointed. For instance, a definitive diagnosis of recurrent disc herniation or other disorders may be made. In a number of cases, an MRI scan reveals only the presence of scar tissue, suggesting to some clinicians and researchers that the scar tissue is the likely source of continued back or leg pain after spine surgery.

The use of chiropractic acupuncture to “break up” the scar tissue is sometimes successful. Dr. Thomas’ experience has been that he can relieve some of the pain in 50% of the cases. In many cases, complete relief has been achieved. All treatment is based on the presence of a spinal subluxation, which is determined at the initial examination. All chiropractic treatment is of a gentle nature and disruption of the surgical area will not be involved.