What is Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Also known as XLIF, this minimally invasive procedure is used to treat leg or chronic back pain caused by degenerative disc disease. The procedure is performed through the patient's side, therefore avoiding the major muscles of the back. This minimally invasive approach to the anterior spine avoids making a large incision that traverses the abdomen and also avoids cutting or disrupting the muscles of the back. In this fusion technique, the disk space is accessed from a very small incision on the patient's side several inches in length. Special retractors are utilized, in addition to a fluoroscopy machine, which provides real-time x-ray images of the spine. In addition, special monitoring equipment is used to determine the proximity of the working instruments to the nerves of the spine. The disc material is removed from the spine and replaced with a bone graft, along with structural support from a cage made of bone, titanium, carbon-fiber, or a polymer.

What Are the Benefits of XLIF?

This minimally invasive procedure typically allows a shorter hospital stay and is considered far less painful than traditional approaches to the spine. Only those vertebra of the spine that have clear access from the side of the body can be approached using this technique.  At Spine Centers of America, we routinely perform several types of spinal procedures utilizing minimally invasive spine surgery techniques. The development of these techniques originated with the application of endoscopy and has now been applied to fusion procedures to relieve chronic back pain.
Since XLIF is a minimally invasive surgery, patients generally recover easily. The length of time the patient is required to stay under physician care can vary, but most patients are able to go home a day or two after the spinal fusion surgery. Many patients notice an improvement in their symptoms immediately after XLIF surgery while some patients may feel their symptoms decrease at a more graduated pace.

Hospital stay 1-2 days 3-5 days
Walking same day 2-4 days
Return to normal acitvity 4-6 weeks 6 months or longer

Source: Wright N, XLIF - the United States experience 2003-4,
International Meeting on Advanced Spine Techniques, 2005, Banff, Canada.

What Conditions Can XLIF Surgery Treat?

XLIF can be used to treat the following spinal conditions:
    •    Degenerative Disc Disease
    •    Spondylolisthesis
    •    Degenerative Scoliosis
    •    Spinal Deformity
    •    Thoracic Disc Herniation
    •    Recurrent Lumbar Disc Herniations
    •    Foraminal Stenosis

When is XLIF Surgery Recommended?

XLIF is recommended for thoraric lumbar spine conditions lcoated at above L5-S1 that requires a fusion and can be accessed from the side of the body.
For more comprehensive information, feel free to visit our spinal procedure videos page or contact us to speak with a back pain specialist.