Minimally Invasive Solution: Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion

 In recent years, minimally invasive solutions are becoming more and more the norm for physicians who practice spinal surgery. One of the most prominent techniques used in minimally invasive surgeries is the Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion, also known as XLIF. This approach to spinal fusion allows access to the affected spinal region while potentially minimizing the dangers associated with open back surgery. XLIF involves accessing parts of the spine through muscles on the left or ride side of the body, in order to reduce soft tissue damage and blood loss.

Depending on the location of the damaged or injured vertebrae, interbody fusion requires the physician to gain clear access to the spine and therefore he may take several different approaches to accomplish this. Three types of interbody fusion includes:

–       Anterior Lumbar Interior Fusion (ALIF): involves approaching the spine from the front of the body through an incision in the patient’s abdomen

–       Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF): involves approaching the spine through an incision in the patient’s back over the vertebrae to be treated

–       Tranforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF): involves approaching the spine from the side through an incision in the patient’s back

There are a variety of factors that influence a surgeon’s decision on which procedure will be best for their patient. They must take into consideration:

–       The spinal condition to be treated

–       It’s location in the spinal column,

–       The attending physician’s training and surgical experience,

–       Available technology

Where XLIF differs from other interbody fusion techniques is the procedure itself. During XLIF, the surgeon will make a very minor incision in the patient’s side. Using minimally invasive surgical techniques, they will create a narrow corridor and begin gently weaving through the fibers of the psoas muscle to reach the spine. While other interbody fusions rely on spinal access through the back or the abdominal cavity, XLIF is special because it allows the surgeons to get the job done, without damaging vital tissues and muscles needed for mobility.

XLIF allows the patient to return to full agility at a much faster pace than most spinal surgeries. Typically, a patient will be able to walk around after one post-operative day, and depending on their specific treatment plan, they may be ready to return to work within a few short weeks of recovery.

To determine if interbody spinal fusion is right for you, consult a certified spinal specialist. As always, these articles are meant for general education and are not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat a specific disease. Please see Dr. Sharma for questions regarding the specific treatment of your symptoms.