What You Need to Know about Revision Spine Surgery

revision spine surgeryIf you have ever suffered from back pain, you know it can be excruciating, and in the worst cases, debilitating.

It can affect your ability to walk, drive, work, play with your kids, or perform many other basic tasks.

For relief from their back pain, nearly half a million Americans undergo spinal surgery each year.

Unfortunately, however, many times the initial spinal surgery is unsuccessful. In these cases, patients may have to undergo revision spine surgery.

When surgeons perform revision spine surgery, they might simply repeat the original procedure because it failed to address the patient’s problem the first time around, or they may perform an entirely different procedure.

In the latter case, it could be that the wrong procedure was completed the first time, or it could be that a new condition has developed since the initial operation.

No matter the case, revision spine surgery comes with lots of questions.

Why do you need it?

What should you expect if you need it?

Are you going to be able to get back to all those activities you enjoy?

Keep reading for answers to your revision spine surgery questions.

Do You Need Revision Spine Surgery?

Your need for revision spine surgery will depend on your initial diagnosis and your symptoms following your initial surgery.

Here is a look at some of the most common conditions requiring surgery, and the symptoms  that might signal you need revision spine surgery:

  • Discectomy — This procedure involves removing pieces of disc material that have torn off or completely separated, from the main disc. As long as there is part of the original disc in place, it is possible to develop recurring disc herniations. You’ll know this may be happening to you if you have shooting pain down your arm.
  • Pseudoarthrosis — If a year has passed since your initial surgery and your bones still haven’t fused, you may be experiencing pseudoarthrosis. This occurs in about 68 percent of lumbar fusions, and about 36 percent of those cases require spine revision surgery. Pseudoarthrosis is more likely to occur in those who had spinal fusions without hardware.
  • Adjacent Segment Degeneration — Adjacent segment degeneration is a condition in which the joints right above or right below the site of the spinal surgery undergo anatomical changes. Usually, this takes about two years to develop. One of the most common symptoms associated with ASD is pain down the leg.
  • Total Disc Replacement — This is a relatively new procedure in the United States and one that very few patients actually need. When another surgery is needed, it is usually because of hardware failure.
  • Faulty Hardware — This one is straightforward enough. If you have had rods, screws or other equipment implanted during your initial surgery and that equipment fails, you will need to go back under the knife to fix the faulty parts.

Other factors that can contribute to failed procedures and the need for a second surgery include the development of scar tissue, surgical errors, and the patient’s overall health condition.

To determine whether you need another operation, your doctor will conduct a physical examination and order a variety of diagnostic scans, including CTs, MRIs, X-rays, EMGs and bone scans.

After carefully reviewing the results of these tests, your physician may conclude you do indeed need another procedure.

You won’t be alone, however.

For as much as 40 percent of back surgery patients, this is the case.

What to Expect

You’ve just had one spinal surgery when your doctor tells you that you need another. Such news can be devastating.

After all, you were envisioning yourself healed by this point, able to do all the things you enjoy in life without pain, or limited range of motion, or worry.

When your doctor tells you that you need a second surgery, a lot of thoughts may cross your mind:

Will I ever be free of my back pain?

What if this surgery goes wrong?

Will I be worse off than I was before?

These are all understandable worries, but there is plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Research conducted by Johns Hopkins Medicine shows that patients who have revision spine surgery are just as likely to make a full recovery the second time around as those who have only had the initial surgery.

The key, researchers found, lies in making the correct diagnosis and performing the surgery correctly.

Complications can always arise, of course, but the takeaway is that revision spine surgery is no more likely to go wrong than initial spine surgeries.

That’s good news!

“In fact, the outcome for revision patients is a bit better in some of the study tools we use to assess their function. And the complication rate isn’t significantly higher,” researcher and orthopedic surgeon Khaled Kebaish told Johns Hopkins News in 2013.

If at first, your surgery wasn’t successful, try again — and in all likelihood, this time it will work, and you’ll be back to doing all the things you enjoy.

Also, you might take comfort in the fact that it may be possible to correct your spinal issue through a minimally invasive surgery.

In these cases, the incision is less than 1 inch in length, and the recovery time is much shorter than with traditional operations.

Your physician will have to determine the course of treatment your condition requires.

Whatever your condition and no matter if you are undergoing an initial spinal surgery or a revision spine surgery, your quickest path to recovery will be to strictly follow your physician’s post-op advice.

This will likely mean taking antibiotics, perhaps restricting your movements or completing a round of physical therapy.

Whatever he or she prescribes, it is in your best interest, and if you follow his or her directions closely, you will be much more likely to have a positive outcome.

Executive Spine Surgery offers a wide range of treatment options for back pain, including spinal injections, pain mapping, endoscopic, minimally invasive and complex spinal surgery, joint and lumbar fusion, and much more.

For an appointment or additional information, contact us today.