What You Need To Know About Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF)

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion, or XLIF for short, is a minimally invasive procedure that is commonly used to relieve symptoms associated with degenerative disc disease, such as leg or back pain. Performed through an incision in the patient’s side, this procedure offers many benefits, such as avoiding the major muscles of the back, which means an easier recovery for many.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion

The benefits of approaching the spinal fusion from your side instead of from your front or back are significant and include:

  • Reduced time for the operation
  • Fewer recovery days
  • Minimal scarring
  • Less blood loss
  • Less postoperative pain
  • Quicker return to your daily activities
  • Minimal muscle and ligament tampering
  • No disruption to abdominal muscles

When Can XLIF Be Used?

A lateral lumbar interbody fusion can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Your spine expert may recommend a minimally invasive spinal fusion if you are suffering from one of the conditions below:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Thoracic disc herniation
  • Scoliosis caused by degeneration
  • Deformities
  • Lumbar disc herniation
  • Low-grade spondylolisthesis

Although an XLIF is a wonderful option when a minimally invasive spinal fusion is necessary, this outpatient procedure is not recommended for spinal issues such as:

  • High-grade spondylolisthesis
  • When a fusion is needed on a low-riding L4 or L5
  • When a fusion is needed too close to pelvic region and therefore inaccessible from the side
  • For deformities that cause rotation difficulties

Before recommending a lateral lumbar interbody fusion, your spine expert may first opt to try noninvasive treatment methods. If noninvasive treatment methods do not provide relief, your spine expert may administer extensive testing to determine if you are a candidate for XLIF.

Recovery from XLIF

Recovery from minimally invasive procedures is usually quicker and easier than recovery from more invasive procedures. However, as with any kind of surgery, minimally invasive spinal fusion or not, recovery time varies among individuals. Factors such as your general health before the surgery, as well as your willingness to follow postoperative instructions to the letter, aid in determining recovery time. For the most part, however, you can expect to:

  • Get up and walk immediately following the procedure
  • Feel some minor pain due to the operation
  • Notice a high level of pain relief from the affected area almost immediately

Thanks to the nature of minimally invasive spinal fusions, you should be able to notice right away that the lateral lumbar interbody fusion was successful.

Learn More

If you are suffering from back or spine pain, we invite you to learn more about Pacific Spine Specialists. Dr. Keenen is an orthopedic spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures. Take advantage of our free MRI review and request an appointment today.