Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure used to correct problems with the small bones in the spine. It is essentially a welding process. The basic idea is to fuse together the painful vertebrae so they heal into a single, solid bone. Spinal fusion is a treatment option when motion is the source of pain —  the theory being that if the painful vertebrae do not move, they should not hurt. The following will be an overview of the various types of spinal fusion. To learn more, contact BEST Health System today. 

Interbody Fusion

An interbody fusion is a type of spinal fusion that involves removing the intervertebral disc from the disc space. When the disc space has been cleared out, your surgeon will implant a metal, plastic, or bone spacer between the two adjoining vertebrae. This spacer, or cage, promotes bone healing and facilitates fusion. After the cage is placed in the disc space, the surgeon may add stability to your spine by using metal screws, plates, and rods to hold the cage in place.

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

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).

Surgery

During the surgery, the patient is placed in the side position and the operating table is bent to provide the surgeon with a maximum view of the spine.


In some cases, the surgeon inserts an instrument called a tubular retractor through the skin and soft tissues down to the spinal column. The tubular retractor holds the muscles open and gives the surgeon a clear view of the spine.


During the procedure, the surgeon removes the disc and inserts a cage packed with bone graft between the vertebrae. Often, titanium screws are used to hold the cage in place, inserted through an additional incision on the back.

Recovery

Patients typically go home the same day or the next day if only one level is fused. If more than one level is fused, most patients stay overnight. After going home, patients should watch for any belly pain or weakness in the legs that make their legs buckle, and alert the surgeon right away if these symptoms occur.

Pain medication is usually needed for a few days to weeks. Your surgeon may also provide you with a brace to help the fusion heal.

Outcomes for lateral lumbar interbody fusion are equivalent to those of traditional surgeries. Because this procedure is performed through a smaller incision, it may minimize muscle damage.

Cost

The cost of lateral lumbar interbody fusion is based on several considerations. This can include both the extent of the procedure and a patient’s insurance carrier. Medicare can cover this procedure if it is deemed necessary treatment. BEST accepts Medicare, most private health insurances, and works with workers’ compensation claims and personal injury cases at all of our centers. 

Reach out to BEST Health System Today

To learn more about lateral lumbar interbody fusion and if it is right for you, contact BEST Health System today. Our caring and experienced team of treatment professionals can help you develop a personalized treatment plan that is right for you. We are dedicated to getting you the quality of life you deserve. 

Procedure Doctors

Headshot of Jeffrey Shall, M.D.

Jeffrey Shall, M.D.

Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Headshot of D. Philip Stickney, M.D.

D. Philip Stickney, M.D.

Orthopaedic and Spine Surgeon

Brainard ASC

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