Failed spinal stenosis surgery can devastate any patient who has risked the horrors of invasive treatment with the hope of finding a true and lasting cure for their pain. Unlike many other potential causes of back and neck pain, spinal stenosis often does require surgical intervention in order to address the causative mechanism within the vertebral canal space. Also, unlike other forms of spinal surgery, stenosis procedures succeed more often than they fail. However, many patients still suffer disappointing outcomes after surgical therapy, dashing their ambitions of returning to normal and pain-free lives after rehabilitation.
This dialog examines the 2 distinct versions of failed stenosis surgery. We also detail why operations might fail in any particular instance and how patients can decrease their chances of being victimized by unsuccessful surgery in the treatment of lumbar, cervical or thoracic stenosis.
Failed Spinal Stenosis Surgery Scenarios
Failed stenosis surgery can describe 2 distinct possible outcomes for patients who choose to undergo invasive stenosis treatment:
The first possibility occurs when the actual stenosis is not resolved during the procedure. This means that a narrowed vertebral canal still exists and symptoms are likely to continue, since the neurological impingement was not corrected. First category failures might be known immediately after surgery or might not be discovered for some time after the procedure is complete. In cases of immediate recognition of failed interventions, there is usually a valid reason why the stenosis could not be cleared, such as an unforeseen complication, unexpected tissue involvement or additional regions of stenosis that could not be accessed during the planned procedure.
The second possibility for failure occurs when the stenosis is indeed resolved, yet symptoms remain regardless. Second category failures are usually not discovered until after the rehabilitation program is complete or nearly complete. This is because patients will be in pain and might still demonstrate neurological symptoms until the area has fully recovered from the trauma of invasive operative care.
Obviously, it is best to fall into the first category of patients, since the procedure will be deemed a failure immediately after the surgery ends. This way, a revised treatment plan can be formulated and the patient will be able to set their sights on eventual recovery, once the stenosis is finally resolved. Category 2 patients will have to endure a painful, but hopeful recovery, a full rehabilitation program and then still face the hurtful fact that they remain in pain. This type of unsuccessful outcome adds stress and suffering to an already frustrating ordeal.
Failed Surgery Causes
Regardless of which category of failure is present, there may be known or unknown factors that have caused the surgery to be deemed unsuccessful:
Diagnosis may have been incorrect from the start. Many cases of stenosis are deemed to be causative for pain, when they are actually coincidental. In essence, the stenosis exists, but is not the source of symptoms. Since mild to moderate stenosis in the neck and lower back is virtually universal for older adults to demonstrate, the explanation of misdiagnosis remains one of the most common reasons for procedural failure.
Nerve damage may have already occurred due to severe stenotic changes, regardless of whether or not the stenosis was actually resolved. Since spinal cord and spinal nerve injury rarely heals, damage and dysfunction might be permanent, even if the surgery was a remarkable success in terms of increasing the canal patency.
Stenosis surgery might have been successful at one location, but other areas of stenosis might still exist and continue to be symptomatic. We see this case profile often when patients undergo lumbar stenosis surgery, yet continue to be affected by yet undiscovered cervical stenosis, as well.
Some patients experience successful surgeries, yet still suffer some complication that causes a new symptomatic expression to develop. Although these surgeries are not actually failures, the damage caused during the iatrogenic operation is responsible for beginning identical or different symptoms anew. Potential complications range from nerve damage to recurrent spinal fluid leaks, to joint damage, disc damage or creation of an unstable vertebral column, as well as the common incidence of hardware failures for patients who also undergo spinal fusion during the invasive treatment protocol.
Failed Spinal Stenosis Surgery Help
Once an operation fails, damage has been done in more ways than one. Patients will be affected by the surgical blunder physically and psychoemotionally, scarring them literally and figuratively, far into their future. Taking the risk of undergoing stenosis surgery is always done so that the patient can overcome tremendous suffering and recover to enjoy a better life. When the reality of the post-surgical existence turns out to be worse than before, the patient is understandably devastated.
Any operation can fail. Statistically, when it comes to treating back or neck pain, most operations do fail to bring about lasting relief. This is a terribly alarming statistic. However, it is unfortunately the proven truth. However, spinal stenosis procedures do demonstrate a much higher success rate compared to other types of surgical back and neck pain interventions. Therefore, patients who are considering surgery should not be deterred. Instead, here are some helpful tips on how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of failed spinal stenosis surgery:
Be sure to do everything possible to insure that the diagnosis is 100% correct. This means reaching out to multiple physicians for opinions on the causation of the symptoms, as well as recommendations on the best surgical fix.
Undergo all the necessary spinal imaging and neurological testing to be sure that the region to be treated is the only symptomatic location of stenosis.
Evaluate other prospective causes of neck or back pain that might be structural, nonstructural, disease-enacted or of mindbody origin. If any other factor can be identified as a potential causes of symptoms, do not proceed with surgery until a definitive causative diagnosis is achieved.
If you truly require stenosis surgery, be sure to find the ideal surgeon and best facility for the procedure. Surgeons are not created equal and your choice of doctor will greatly influence the success rate of the procedure.
Finally, it is important to be as healthy as possible before and after surgery. Make an effort to get in good shape, eat right and stay clear of damaging substances both before and after the operation. Be certain to carefully follow your surgeon’s aftercare and rehabilitation prescriptions for best results.