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Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF) is a minimally-invasive form of back surgery performed through the patient’s side. Lateral lumbar interbody fusion is commonly used to reduce pain associated with degenerative disc disease. The procedure re-aligns the spine and relieves pressure on pinched nerve roots.
During lateral lumbar interbody fusion, two small (1 inch as opposed to the 5 inches necessary for an open procedure) holes are made in the patient’s side. Through these holes, a probe and other surgical tools are inserted and maneuvered. The probe and a variety of tools are used to remove the damaged disc and to replace it with an implant filled with bone graft. After the procedure, the bone inside of the implant grows through the implant and joins together the discs above and below it.
Approaching the spine laterally allows the surgeon to avoid large back muscles that would require long recovery time if cut. Patients are generally able to return home after one night of observation, as opposed to the five nights of observation that usually follow an open spinal surgery. Additionally, patients typically have recovered fully after four to six weeks when the fusion is performed laterally, compared to the six or more months required for full recovery from traditional spinal fusion.