If you are suffering from back pain and are considering surgical treatment options, you probably have heard about spinal fusion surgery, during which, two or more vertebrae are permanently fixed together. Considering the many well-known drawbacks of spinal fusion, nobody really wants to jump for it if he or she has a better choice. As a matter of fact, some patients may not be able to tolerate open fusion surgery. But in the past, many patients unfortunately had no other choice but open fusion surgery.
Today, a better choice is available for many patients who otherwise have to undergo open fusion surgery. And the choice is eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF for short).
What Is XLIF Surgery?
The term XLIF stands for eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion. XLIF surgery is a minimally disruptive surgical procedure. This procedure allows the surgeon to directly access the intervertebral disc space and fuse the lumbar spine from the side. It’s a safe and effective alternative to traditional open fusion surgery.
How Is XLIF Surgery Different From Traditional Open Fusion Surgery?
With traditional open fusion surgery, the surgeon approaches the spine either from the front (anterior) or the back (posterior). To gain access from the front, the surgeon has to pass the surgical tools through the abdomen. To gain access from the back, the surgeon must cut and disrupt the back muscles. Both of these two approaches naturally are associated with high chances of trauma to the body and long recovery.
But with XLIF surgery, the surgeon approaches the spine from the side (lateral) of the body. During an XLIF procedure, only small incisions are made. This approach thus avoids disrupting the abdomen and cutting the back muscles. In addition, XLIF surgery is made safe with the assistance of advanced nerve monitoring system, which provides the surgeon with accurate and real-time feedback about nerve health, location, and function, reducing the incidence of nerve injury during surgery.
What Are the Main Advantages of XLIF Surgery?
Compared with traditional open fusion surgery, XLIF surgery has the following advantages.
- Minimal tissue disruption
- Fast recovery
- Excellent surgical outcome
After XLIF surgery, patients generally can start to walk the same day and return to normal activity within weeks, instead of months.
XLIF can be used to treat spinal pain caused by various conditions such as lumbar degenerative disc disease and spinal deformity. But like any other surgical procedure, XLIF has its own limitations. For example, it’s not recommended for spinal conditions in which it’s impossible to approach the spine from the side.
To learn more about eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF) surgery, visit our available treatments section.