Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is open back surgery used to treat patients with degenerative spine conditions, such as spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease or herniated disc in the lumbar spine (lower back). This procedure can be performed as a traditional open back fusion or a minimally invasive stabilization surgery.

The goal of a transforaminal lumbar fusion is to remove part of a damaged or diseased disc in the spine that is pinching a nerve root in the spine and causing sciatica symptoms, such as radiating pain in the back and extremities, as well as muscle weakness and tingling in the extremities. Once the damaged disc is removed, the spine must be restabilized. This is where one of the differences lies between the two approaches to lumbar spinal fusion — traditional lumbar fusion uses metal rods and screws to fuse together the two vertebrae surrounding the empty disc space, whereas minimally invasive stabilization surgery uses an artificial disc and bone grafts to create a more natural approach to healing the spine.

Traditional lumbar fusion versus minimally invasive lumbar stabilization

There are two main differences between traditional transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) and minimally invasive TLIF surgery: the approach to the spine and the fusion of the spine.

Traditional TLIF requires a large incision that must detach and cut through the nearby muscles in order to reach the spine. This muscle movement and tearing leaves patients susceptible to a higher risk of infection and excessive scar tissue, which can hinder a successful fusion. In contrast, a minimally invasive TLIF at Laser Spine Institute uses a small incision that avoids any disruption of the muscles near the spine, allowing our patients to have a lower risk of infection or complication and a higher postoperative patient satisfaction score.

Once the spine is accessed and the damaged disc is removed, traditional TLIF surgery uses metal screws and rods to permanently fuse together the two vertebrae surrounding the empty disc space. While this does provide stabilization to the spine, it also permanently prohibits movement or bending in that area of the spine. Instead, Laser Spine Institute uses an artificial disc to stabilize the spine, allowing the spine a natural way to heal and preserving the natural range of motion after surgery.

All traditional open back surgery procedures like transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion are associated with a long recovery period, significant scar tissue and the risks inherent with any major surgery, including infection. Many patients find that the minimally invasive procedures performed by the experienced surgeons at Laser Spine Institute are an effective alternative. Our minimally invasive procedures offer a shorter recovery time^ and higher patient satisfaction score than traditional open back surgery.

Contact Laser Spine Institute for your MRI review and to learn how to find relief from back pain.