Lateral lumbar interbody fusion is a procedure in which the surgeon accesses the affected vertebrae in the lower (lumbar) back through the patient’s side, rather than through the abdomen or the back. It is a less-invasive procedure designed to spare the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other tissue from the major disruption associated with traditional open back surgery. The purpose of this surgery is to alleviate the symptoms associated with impinged or irritated nerve roots or the spinal cord.
This operation is considered “less invasive” because the incision or incisions generally are much smaller than the 5-inch or longer cuts typically used in open back surgery. Like anterior and posterior lumbar interbody fusion, lateral lumbar interbody fusion involves the removal of a large amount of damaged or diseased intervertebral disc material, which is replaced by a bone graft. The period of recovery varies from patient to patient, but most can expect to resume normal activity within a few months.
Here is a step-by-step look at the process of lateral lumbar interbody fusion:
- One small incisions are made on the patient’s side; one incision is for a probe and the other is to guide the surgical tools
- The probe is inserted and used to detect compressed nerve roots and to avoid healthy nerves
- A series of tubes, progressively larger, are inserted over the probe
- A retractor is inserted over the tubes and used to move muscle tissue that blocks access to the spine
- The damaged or diseased portion of the disc is removed through the small opening of the center tube
- The bone graft is inserted into the vacated disc space, either in the form of a bone block or within a metal cage implant
- Over time, the bone graft grows and creates a bridge between the vertebrae, helping to ensure stability
While this procedure is considered a technological step forward from traditional spine fusion, many patients might find an even more attractive alternative at Laser Spine Institute (LSI). The award-winning surgeons at LSI perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that use gentle, endoscopic techniques to help many patients avoid taking the drastic step of spinal fusion. Contact LSI for a free review of your MRI or CT scan and to learn how to rediscover a life without pain.