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Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF)

restore your natural spinal alignment

An interbody fusion is a spinal surgery wherein a compromised intervertebral disc is removed and replaced with an implant. The implant restores natural spinal alignment, fuses the two adjoining vertebrae to enhance stability, and reduces the painful symptoms of nerve compression. Spinal fusion is often combined with bone grafting, a procedure wherein a bone graft material is inserted into the spinal bone to replace the lost bone tissues and activate bone growth.

XLIF (eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion) is one of the most advanced minimally-invasive methods of achieving the aforementioned goals without disrupting the back muscles, making it the best treatment for degenerative discs, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative scoliosis. Dr. Brian McHugh aims to treat all spinal problems using nonsurgical and non-invasive methods, such as medications, corticosteroids, and physical therapy. However, minimally invasive surgery may be necessary in severe cases.

man with lower back pain

What is XLIF?

XLIF (eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion) is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that treats a wide range of spinal problems. The procedure involves gaining side access to the spinal column via nerve monitoring technology to avoid the major nerves in the area. It’s far safer than traditional surgical methods because it doesn’t involve front and back exposure, minimizing the risk of neural injuries.

Am I a suitable candidate for an XLIF?

Dr. McHugh will discuss your symptoms, review your medical history, and run a series of tests to diagnose the root cause of your spinal problems. He aims to treat all problems using non-invasive methods, like physical therapy or medications. However, he may recommend the XLIF procedure if you suffer from severe degenerative problems or the non-invasive methods fail to yield results. Dr. McHugh will determine if you can benefit from the XLIF procedure, and he will curate the treatment plan accordingly.

What does XLIF treat?

  • Degenerative Disc Disease: A condition that leads to thin, rigid, or herniated intervertebral discs due to the natural aging process, loss of water content, and a compromised outer shell.
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis: A condition that causes one of the vertebrae to slide out of place due to degenerative changes in one or several components of the spinal structure, including the discs, ligaments, and joints.
  • Degenerative Scoliosis: A condition that leads to an abnormal curvature in the spinal column due to the degeneration of the intervertebral discs or joints, leading to misalignment and back pain.

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What happens during the XLIF procedure?

During the XLIF procedure, you’ll be sedated and positioned on your side with the appropriate surgical garments. X-ray images will be taken to identify the operative disc space, following which the procedure may begin.

Dr. McHugh makes a small incision on the side of your body. Dilators are used to direct the path towards the affected disc while avoiding the local nerves. Once the ideal path is located, a minimally-disruptive retractor holds the incision open to provide easy access to the affected region.

  1. The damaged disc is removed via the ideal path, taking pressure off the nerve roots.
  2. Dr. McHugh will choose the ideal implant for your specific needs. The implant replaces the damaged disc, restoring the ideal disc height to offer optimal support. The spinal column will gradually stabilize once your bone grows between the vertebrae during the healing process.
  3. An internal brace or fixation device will stabilize the spinal column while the healing process continues.
  4. The internal fixation device may include screws and plates fixed to the surrounding vertebrae. However, Dr. McHugh will determine the specific type of fixation device necessary, and if it’s necessary at all.

What are the benefits of an XLIF procedure?

  • Small incisions.
  • Limited blood loss.
  • Minimal operative time.
  • Minimal hospital time.
  • Minimal recovery period.
  • Safer than traditional surgeries.
woman with lower back pain

What happens after the XLIF procedure?

You will wake up in the recovery room after the procedure. Your postoperative condition and vital signs will be closely monitored in the recovery room, following which you’ll be taken back to your hospital room. Dr. McHugh will curate the ideal postoperative recovery course to help you regain mobility and normal functionality as soon as possible. You may be asked to wear a brace for a while to support the spinal fusion, and you may have to be careful while walking, sitting, standing, etc. Dr. McHugh will also prescribe the appropriate medications and exercise regimen to get you back on track. Contact us for more information.

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