Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

A Type of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

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Then your surgeon will use special instruments to remove your disc through this tube. This is called discectomy.

When the surgeon removes your disc, there's an empty space that needs to be filled to avoid causing your spine to become unstable. That means that it's more prone to excessive movement and perhaps injury.

As part of LLIF, your surgeon will stabilize your spine by replacing the disc with a spacer. This spacer is a small cage, which is usually made of a polymer plastic and filled with bone graft. This substance facilitates fusion between your vertebrae. Fusion will help to stabilize your spine again.

Bone graft can be created with actual bone or a biologic substance. When it's taken from your own body, it's called autograft; when it's from a donor's body, it's allograft. Biologic substances (eg, bone morphogenetic protein)—man-made bone graft substitutes—can also help facilitate the fusion process.

This procedure is usually enough to stabilize your spine, but you might need more support. If that's the case, your surgeon may insert rods and screws in your spine. These will stabilize your spine as your bones fuse to form permanent support. Fusion typically takes 6 to 9 months.

Minimally invasive LLIF usually takes less than 1 ½ hours to perform for each level.

Minimally Invasive Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion Risks

Although minimally invasive LLIF has fewer risks than open spine surgeries (eg, less blood loss), there are still some risks:

  • Injury to your psoas muscle
  • Injury to the plexus (network) of nerves that run through your psoas muscle, causing numbness, pain, or weakness
  • Injury to your intestines, blood vessels, or abdominal wall
  • Bone graft may not properly fuse, which may require additional surgery
  • Screws or rods (if used) can shift

Minimally Invasive Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion Recovery

You will probably be able to get back to your routine within a few weeks after minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion, but your doctor will let you know when you're ready to return to your regular activities.

Updated on: 02/08/19
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TLIF and PLIF: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgeries
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
Neurosurgeon
Charleston Brain and Spine
Charleston, SC
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TLIF and PLIF: Minimally Invasive Spine Surgeries

Learn what spine conditions TLIF and PLIF are most commonly used for, how they can be performed minimally invasively, and the potential risks associated with these spine surgeries.
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