A minimally invasive lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) is a type of spine surgery that involves approaching the spine through very small incisions in the side as opposed to through an incision in the front or back. The procedure is performed in order to stabilize the spinal column and fill the space previously occupied by the damaged disc.
A spinal fusion procedure such as an XLIF may be recommended as a surgical treatment option for patients with leg or back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. It may also be recommended for patients diagnosed with degenerative scoliosis, low grade spondylolisthesis, foraminal stenosis, or recurrent lumbar disc herniations. By using this approach, cutting major muscles of the back are avoided.
How is the XLIF performed?
An XLIF begins with the surgeon creating two small incisions in the patient’s side. A probe inserted through one incision to stimulate and detect nerves along the side of the spine. A series of dilation tubes are slid over the probe to create a larger opening, and the damaged disc is then carefully removed through a retractor device. An implant filled with bone graft is placed into the empty disc space. Bone Morphogenetic Protein may be used to encourage bone growth and a strong fusion. As the bone graft grows through and around the implants it will form a bone bridge that fuses the vertebral bodies.
How long is recovery?
This minimally invasive XLIF procedure typically allows many patients to be discharged 1–2 days after surgery, and some patients may even be discharged on the same day as surgery. The XLIF is less likely to cause extensive scarring or require an extended recovery than traditional open back surgery. Many patients will notice immediate improvement of some or all of their symptoms. Many patients who undergo an XLIF can often return to their regular activities within several weeks. This can vary depending on the individual patient, number of levels treated, and other factors. Recovery will include rest, physical therapy, and a variable course of pain management medication.
Why North American Spine?
Our partnered physicians are specialized and highly experienced in minimally invasive techniques, so patients experience a quicker recovery time, better surgical outcome, and reduced post-operative risks in comparison to open spine surgeries. Also, remember that your Patient Care Manager is here to guide you the whole way—our goal is to make sure you feel informed, cared for, and comfortable throughout every step of your care.