Minimally invasive lower back fusion surgery — understanding the advantages of lateral lumbar interbody fusion

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion is a minimally invasive lower back fusion surgery. The goal of this procedure is to relieve the discomfort caused by spinal cord or nerve root compression in the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine. This is achieved by removing portions of bone and/or disc material that are pressing against a nerve root and causing pain and symptoms.

The procedure also involves stabilizing the affected area with bone grafts and the minimal use of screws and rods to effectively “fuse” two affected vertebrae together. This type of procedure has a number of advantages over highly invasive traditional open spine fusion surgery.

Open spine fusion versus lateral lumbar interbody fusion surgery

Both minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion and highly invasive traditional back fusion require the removal of bone and/or a disc (in part or in whole) that is contributing to spinal cord or nerve root compression in the lumbar region. Traditional open spine fusion surgery requires a large incision and the disruption of muscles and other soft tissue so that a surgeon can access the affected area.

Once tissue is removed to decompress nerve roots, bone grafts and hardware are inserted to fuse the affected vertebrae. Because the procedure is highly invasive, there is a risk for infection, and recovery can be lengthy and arduous.
Conversely, lateral lumbar interbody fusion surgery has the following advantages over open spine surgery:

  • A much smaller incision — The required incision is very small, which minimizes scarring and the risk for infection, and is made on a patient’s left or right side. Small surgical tools are threaded through this incision to access the affected area.
  • Little disruption of soft tissue — Muscles and other soft tissue are gently pushed aside instead of being disrupted, which can significantly reduce the risk for blood loss and greatly decrease a patient’s recovery time.
  • Performed on an outpatient basis — This means no hospitalization is required and the recovery period is faster* and less painful than the recovery period associated with open spine surgery.

To find out if you’re a candidate for one of these procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute, and we will provide you with your MRI or CT scan review.