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Lateral Lumbar Inter-body Fusion: What You Need To Know

back-pain, spine doctor

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (LLIF) is a fairly new technique used for treating pressure on the nerve roots and spinal cord that causes low back pain. It is also sometimes referred to as Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion, Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, or Transpsoas Lateral Interbody Fusion. The procedure uses a side (lateral) approach instead of going through the front or the rear. The procedure is minimally invasive, safe, and reduces soft tissue and bone disturbance. LLIF takes approximately 90 minutes per level fused, with recovery time much shorter than traditional open surgery. Individuals who undergo LLIF can usually resume normal activity a few weeks after surgery with their physician’s clearance.

People suffering from the following conditions are good candidates for LLIF:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Disc Herniation
  • Degenerative Scoliosis
  • Low-grade Spondylolisthesis

Surgery begins with the individual lying on his or her side on an operating table. General anesthesia is given to help the person fall asleep. The surgeon makes three tiny cuts, two of which will be used to accommodate surgical devices called a probe and a tubular retractor. The tubular retractor enables the back muscles to be moved away so that the surgeon has clear access to the spine. A series of tubes, each larger than the one before it, are inserted through one cut to open that area for surgery, which will be performed through that tube. Next, the surgeon will use other specialized instruments to remove the disc between the vertebrae. A bone implant within a plastic or metal cage will fill the vacant space. The bone will grow and join with the vertebrae above and below it, fusing them together, giving the spine greater stability. Metal hardware may be used to reinforce the bone implant.

The LLIF procedure’s side approach allows the surgeon easier access to the spine and offers improved alignment of the vertebrae.

If you have low back pain and would like to learn about our treatment choices,  please call us at our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.

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