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An Overview of Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) - Spine Center of Texas
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An Overview of Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

Worried senior man sitting on sofa at home and touching his back. Elderly man suffering lumbar spine.

Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) is a procedure performed to help provide stabilization to the vertebrae of the lower back. The technique is gaining popularity as an alternative to Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) because of its’ reduced risk of nerve tissue damage and scarring.

TLIF is used with individuals who suffer from degenerative joint disease, spondylolisthesis, or have experienced repeated disc herniation, and is effective in reducing pain and disfigurement. The surgical method has traditionally been invasive, but new advances now allow a minimally invasive approach. The invasive technique requires a hospital stay of three to five days.

Surgery begins with the individual lying the on their stomach on an operating table. An anesthetic is administered so that the person will fall asleep. If the invasive method is used, the surgeon makes an incision in the back for the length of the area to be repaired.

With the minimally invasive technique, the surgeon instead inserts a tube into the area through the skin until it is touching the spinal cord, and the entire surgery is done through this tube. Soft tissue is then cut, and the facet joints are removed to allow access to the intervertebral disc.

The disc space debris is cleaned out, and a bone graft encased in a spacer, which is taken from the individual’s hip or a donor, is inserted into the empty disc space. This bone graft offers support and maintains the standard height of the vertebrae because it will grow and heal inside the disc space, creating a solid fusion.

Additional bone is implanted on the side of the vertebrae to provide added stability.  Next, screws are inserted into the back of the vertebrae, and rods are attached. This added hardware provides extra reinforcement to ensure proper healing. Once the hardware is in place, the surgeon completes the procedure by closing the incision.

TLIF is an advantageous technique because it fuses both the front and rear spinal column, which offers greater stability and gets rid of the mobility that causes pain.  The option for a minimally invasive approach also limits the amount of muscle and nerve tissue that has to be cut, thus speeding up recovery time.

If you are experiencing low back pain and would like to find out about the treatment choices we offer, please call us to schedule an appointment today.