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Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF) Surgery

Understanding Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF) Surgery, Risks and Recovery

XLIF: Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery in Birmingham and Hoover, Alabama

When spine conditions like disc degeneration or stenosis cause severe, persistent back pain, conservative treatments aren’t always enough to provide symptom relief. In some cases, fusing the spinal vertebrae may be the best option for the patient. XLIF, lateral lumbar interbody fusion, is a surgical procedure to permanently connect two vertebrae, eliminating the vertebral movement that causes back pain. Learn more about this surgical option from Southlake Orthopaedics, a multi-specialty orthopedic practice in Hoover and Birmingham, Alabama.

What Is Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF) Surgery?

Also referred to as extreme lateral interbody fusion, lateral lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF) is a minimally invasive form of spinal fusion surgery. In this procedure, a surgeon accesses the spine from the patient’s side (known as a lateral approach) instead of through the back (posterior approach) or abdomen (anterior approach). This reduces the disruption to muscles and surrounding tissues, leading to less pain and shorter recovery timelines.

Conditions That Can Be Treated With XLIF Surgery

Spinal fusion surgery may be recommended after less invasive treatment options like physical therapy or epidural injections fail to resolve lower back pain. XLIF can be used to treat spine conditions such as:

  • Degenerative disc disease: Spinal disc degeneration is common among older adults and can be caused by osteoarthritis. It often causes chronic back or neck pain.
  • Lumbar disc herniation: A herniated disc is an intervertebral disc that has weakened and cracked, causing the jelly-like substance inside to slip out and press against surrounding nerves.
  • Scoliosis: XLIF may be used to treat degenerative scoliosis, in which an abnormal curvature of the spine can cause nerve impingement and back or leg pain. 
  • Spinal stenosis: Caused by arthritis, injury, or spinal tumors, a narrowing of the spinal canal can compress the surrounding nerve roots and lead to leg pain, weakness, or even loss of sensation.

What to Expect During the Procedure

XLIF is performed under general anesthesia and usually takes less time than other types of fusion surgery. The procedure can often be completed in under an hour. A surgeon will make a small incision in the side of the patient’s abdomen. They will use a dilator to gently separate the muscle tissue and access the spine. Using X-ray guidance, they will remove any damaged disc tissue and then insert a bone graft into the space. If necessary, they may use metal rods, plates, or screws to stabilize the vertebrae. Finally, the incision site is closed with stitches.

Two people walking outside wearing exercise clothing and holding hand weights

XLIF Surgery Risks

As with any surgery, XLIF procedures carry the risk of complications. The level of risk varies from patient to patient and is dependent on their age and overall health. Some risks of XLIF include:

  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding and nerve/blood vessel damage
  • Blood clotting that may move throughout the body
  • Lack of pain relief
  • New pain at surgical site
  • Failure of bones to fuse properly

XLIF Surgery Recovery

Some patients feel immediate relief after XLIF surgery – for others, it can take a few weeks for symptoms to subside. Because this is a minimally invasive procedure, patients often only need to stay one or two nights in the hospital after surgery. While they will need to take some time off work to rest and recover, most patients can resume light activities in three to six weeks. As part of their surgical rehabilitation plan, many patients will have a series of physical therapy appointments to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, improve their flexibility and range of motion, and reduce postoperative pain.

Why Choose Southlake Orthopaedics for XLIF Surgery?

With an unparalleled commitment to patient care, Southlake Orthopaedics is proud to offer comprehensive orthopedic services from diagnosis and conservative treatments to surgery and rehabilitation. The board-certified, multi-level specialists are well-versed in minimally invasive surgical techniques that help improve patient outcomes. Southlake Orthopaedics also has onsite physical therapy services, and the certified physical therapists work in coordination with the surgical team to develop personalized rehabilitation plans and help patients get back to doing the things they love. 

Find Advanced Surgical Care for Spine Conditions and Injuries at Southlake Orthopaedics

For less pain and more living, turn to an experienced multi-specialty orthopedic practice. With a wide range of surgical and non-surgical treatment options, as well as in-house physical therapy, the medical team is uniquely equipped to treat patients with back and spine issues. Serving individuals throughout Central AL, Southlake Orthopaedics has locations in Hoover and Birmingham, AL. Southlake Orthopaedics accepts Medicaid and Medicare, as well as several private health insurance plans. To learn more about lateral lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF), contact Southlake Orthopaedics today.