An interbody fusion can be performed using a variety of different approaches. For example, a surgeon can access the spine through incisions in the lower back or through incisions in the front of the body.
In a lateral lumbar interbody fusion, the surgeon takes a side approach and centers the incision over the patient’s flank. With this approach, the surgeon can reach the vertebrae and intervertebral discs without moving the nerves or opening up muscles in the back.
The lateral approach is often referred to as extreme lateral or direct lateral interbody fusion (XLIF or DLIF). The surgeon accesses the spine by going through the psoas muscle, the muscle that enables the hip to flex, rotate, and adduct (move toward the midline of the body).