A transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is a type of spine surgery that involves approaching the spine from the back, or posterior, of the body to removed damaged disc material that is compressing nerve roots and fill the resulting space with a bone graft between two vertebrae, fusing them together for stability. Traditional, open spine surgery involves cutting or stripping the muscles from the spine. But today, a TLIF can be performed with small incisions and muscle dilation, allowing the surgeon to gently separate the muscles surrounding the spine rather than cutting them. This preserves the surrounding muscular and vascular function and minimizes scarring.
Your doctor may recommend a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion if you have severe or debilitating lower back pain or instability stemming from spinal disorders such as herniated or torn spinal discs, a slippage of spinal bones called spondylolisthesis, or a weakening of your spinal discs called degenerative disc disease. In addition to the presence of these problems, candidates for the procedure typically have not gained adequate relief from a full course of nonsurgical treatment.
How is the TLIF performed?
A TLIF begins with one or more small incisions in the skin of your back over the vertebra(e) to be treated. Part of the vertebral bone will be removed to get access to the disc. Your surgeon will remove part of the damaged disc and place a bone graft in the empty disc space to align the vertebral bones. Screws and rods may be implanted for additional support, with morselized bone graft that will be placed along the sides of the spine. Once the morselized bone graft grows through and around the implants it will form a bone bridge that fuses the vertebral bodies.
Studies indicate that patient’s pain improves 60% to 70% after TLIF spinal fusion surgery and approximately 80% of patients undergoing TLIF are satisfied with the surgical result.
How long is recovery?
This minimally invasive TLIF procedure typically allows many patients to be discharged the 1–2 days after surgery. The TLIF 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 a TLIF 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.