Lateral lumbar interbody fusion

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion is a procedure in which the surgeon accesses an affected vertebra in the lumbar spine (lower back) through the side of the body rather than through the abdomen or the back. While this may seem like a more invasive approach to the spine, the lateral entrance allows the surgeon to avoid disrupting the large muscles surrounding the lumbar spine.

The purpose of lateral lumbar interbody fusion is to remove a damaged disc in the spine and create stability around the empty disc space. There are several types of lumbar interbody fusions, such as posterior and anterior. The difference is simply the way in which the spine is approached. The type of lumbar interbody fusion necessary for your condition will be determined by the exact location of your condition and your personal medical history. You can discuss the options with your surgeon during your initial consultation.

What to expect during a lateral lumbar interbody fusion

This operation is considered “less invasive” because the incision is generally much smaller than the 5-inch or longer incisions typically used in traditional open back surgery. Here is a step-by-step look at the process of lateral lumbar interbody fusion:

  • Two 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.
  • The damaged or diseased portion of the disc is removed through the incision.
  • The bone graft is inserted into the empty 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 does offer great benefits, the use of a metal cage or bone grafts solely as the fusing mechanisms contribute to one of the main risks of traditional spinal fusion: failed back surgery syndrome. The use of metal to fuse together the two vertebrae surrounding the empty disc space means that the spine will no longer have movement in that area; you will not be able to move a small section of your lower back.

With minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion at Laser Spine Institute, we replace the damaged disc with an artificial disc. This allows the spine to experience natural movement and stability after surgery and lowers a patient’s risk of failed back surgery syndrome.

For more information about the advantages of Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive lumbar fusions, contact us today.