doctor with hands on patient's spine

What Is Post Laminectomy Syndrome?

Though the condition is not commonly known to the general public, those who suffer from post laminectomy syndrome (PLS, and also sometimes referred to as Failed Back Surgery Syndrome [FBSS]) likely know it all too well. When you’ve endured a high level of back pain, tried multiple forms of relief, and then undergone surgery — only to find it has caused you even more pain — the frustration is understandable.

As a 2015 study in São Luís, Brazil summarized: “PLS features intense levels of pain, reduced quality of life and greater physical and occupational disability.”

Therefore, concerned doctors and pain specialists are eager and determined to find solutions.

What is a Laminectomy?

A laminectomy, or decompression surgery, removes a part of the vertebrae (the lamina) to surgically create space for the spinal cord and associated nerves, relieving painful compression.

Spinal nerve compression can be caused by conditions including:

  • Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of your spinal canal
  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease, or breakdown of the vertebrae
  • Vertebral injury
  • Tumors

A laminectomy is often considered when other forms of conservative treatments have been unable to relieve pain.

What are the Causes of Post Laminectomy Syndrome?

Unfortunately, the most common cause of post-laminectomy syndrome may involve a misdiagnosis of the area of nerve compression or pain source, as this 2016 study revealed: “Inaccurate diagnosing is a major factor leading to FBSS, with as much as 58% of FBSS resulting from undiagnosed lateral stenosis of the lumbar spine.”

Other causes of post-laminectomy syndrome can include:

  • Transfer of spinal pain to the site of surgery
  • Myofascial pain or inflammation
  • Nerve damage or infection caused by surgery
  • Recurrent underlying issues, such as spinal stenosis or disc herniation
  • Scar tissue that develops along the treated nerve
  • Epidural fibrosis after surgery
  • Further progressive disease

Individual patient risk factors can also greatly contribute to an unsuccessful laminectomy, including diabetes, obesity, smoking, and even depression prior to surgery.

What are Symptoms of Post Laminectomy Syndrome?

It’s normal to experience pain directly after surgery while your body begins the healing process, but if it persists for longer than a couple of months, you may want to discuss PLS with your doctor.

PLS symptoms vary based on the cause and each individual patient, but some of them include:

  • New or shooting, dull, or sharp back pain
  • Consistent, similar pain to that experienced prior to surgery
  • Radiating leg pain or numbness
  • Prolonged tenderness around the site of surgery
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain
  • Difficulty conducting daily activities or going to work due to pain
  • Continued reliance on pain medication

Treatment Options for Post Laminectomy Syndrome

If you fear you may be experiencing PLS, the most important thing you can do is to schedule a thorough follow up examination with your doctor. An MRI or CT scan may be prescribed to get to the root of your pain — something that will be very important in order to treat it.

While the recommended solution will depend on this follow-up, PLS may be treated by:

Spinal Cord Stimulation: Electrical impulses are used to block pain signals to the brain.

Radiofrequency Ablation: Administered through a small needle, electric current heats nerve tissues and eliminates their ability to send pain signals.

Regenerative Medicine: Cutting-edge protocols harness your body’s own healing power to relieve pain.

If you’ve undergone a laminectomy or other back surgery and are still struggling with persistent pain, the specialists at Alliance Spine & Pain Centers offer personalized, state-of-the-art treatments. To schedule a consultation, visit us online or call (770) 929-9033.