XLIF – Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion


The Neurosurgery Spine Center is on the forefront of spine surgery, offering our patients the most innovative and proven surgical procedures and technologies available today. One such example is the Lateral Interbody Fusion procedure.

The Lateral Interbody Fusion procedure is an innovative approach to spinal fusion, accessing the spine from the side of the body instead of the front or back like traditional methods. The spine can be approached from the mid-thoracic spine to the L4-5 disc space in the lower back. This side entry means sensitive back muscles are not disturbed and no bone removal is required. This means less postoperative pain and early return to normal function.

Understanding how it works

Minimal muscle dissection, less bone removal and smaller incisions means there is less blood loss, less operative time, and less pain to the patient. Utilizing a specialized soft tissue retraction system to access the spine, Dr. Blankenship generally performs the procedure with only an overnight stay. Depending on your general health and other factors, a same day discharge to home is also possible.

The procedure is done under general anesthesia. After you are asleep, you will be placed on your side and an X-ray will be taken of your spine to show Dr. Blankenship the location of the operative disc space. Your skin will be marked to show the site for the side incision. Before any surgical incision is made, Dr. Blankenship will perform a spinal injection to bathe the nerves in the spine in narcotics to allow pre-emptive analgesia to occur.

Dr. Blankenship will then make a small incision on your side, and using his finger will guide tubular dilators into position moving between, not through, the abdomen and the spinal muscles. As he advances the tubes through the psoas muscle on the side of your vertebrae, X-ray and nerve monitoring help guide him to the correct position on your spine and away from nearby nerves.

Once the dilators are in place, Dr. Blankenship will insert the specialized soft tissue retractor over them to provide lighted visibility and instrument access to the disc space. With the disc now visible and all nerves in the muscle safely retracted, Dr. Blankenship will remove the disc and prepare the disc space for fusion. He’ll then place a large stabilizing implant into the empty disc space to restore the proper height and support the loads put on that spinal segment. A fixation device will be plate will frequently be placed over the implant to stabilize the construct. When the implant and plate is in position, the retractor is removed and final confirmation X-rays are taken. Dr. Blankenship will close the small skin incisions with a few stitches that are under the skin. No dressing is required.

Maximal access means less invasion. Less invasive means faster recovery

Generally speaking, since the Lateral Interbody Fusion procedure requires less physical trauma than standard techniques, most patients will have a speedier recovery and be able to resume normal activities in a shorter period of time.

To learn more about Lateral Interbody Fusion procedures, please visit the following links: https://www.nuvasive.com/procedures/spine/xlif/

There is Life after Back Surgery

Chronic back pain affects 1 out of every 10 Americans. The men and women who suffer from this condition often feel helpless and isolated, which can actually aggravate their symptoms1. The simple act of connecting with a sympathetic person, who truly understands what they’re going through, can be extremely beneficial. Research suggests that staying positive and receiving emotional support can accelerate recovery from surgery2.

The Better Way Back® is a community that provides hope, support, and information for patients considering the XLIF® (eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion) procedure for back or leg pain.

If you have been indicated for an XLIF procedure and would like support before or after your procedure, then The Better Way Back is here to help. The program can provide patient education materials about the XLIF procedure and pairyou with a Patient Ambassador who can talk with you about their personal experience having back surgery.

For more information about The Better Way Back or to speak to a Patient Ambassador, visit www.thebetterwayback.org or contact [javascript protected email address] or 1-800-745-7099.

1The Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center Program Guide2 Lorig Kate, RN, DrPH et al Living a healthy life with chronic conditions Bull Publishing 2007.

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