Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion, also known as LLIF, XLIF, or DLIF depending on the type, is the surgical removal of a lumbar disc and subsequent insertion of a graft into the intervening vertebra.

The lateral lumbar interbody fusion involves an approach through the flank rather than directly through the abdomen anteriorly or through the back posteriorly. The end outcome is decreased pain during surgery. Compared to procedures from the back, LLIF enables full disc removal and implant placement. The LLIF treatment lowers the risk of vascular injury when compared to ALIF, where the surgeon enters from the front.

Lumbar fusion surgeries are indicated to treat symptomatic degenerative disc disease typically associated with instability, such as spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis. It may be done for more than one level of the lumbar spine. In selected cases, lateral lumbar interbody fusion can provide excellent decompression for spinal stenosis and correct malalignments in the lumbar spine, including scoliosis or spondylolisthesis.

  • Lateral refers to the approach of the surgery which is through the flank rather than through the back or front.
  • This approach provides excellent access to the upper lumbar segments particularly L1-2, L2-3, and L3-4 which are more difficult to access with an anterior approach.
  • Access through the flank can provide a much less invasive and less painful access to those lumbar regions at L1-2, L2-3, and L3-4.

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion Recovery

If just one level is fused, patients usually leave the hospital the same day or the day after. Most patients spend the night when more than one level is fused.

Following discharge from the hospital, patients should keep an eye out for any abdominal discomfort or weakness in their legs that causes their legs to buckle and should contact the surgeon as soon as these symptoms appear.

Most people need pain medication for a few days to a few weeks. In order to aid in the healing of the fusion, your surgeon could also give you a brace.

Results from lateral lumbar interbody fusion are comparable to those from more conventional procedures. This treatment may prevent muscle injury since a smaller incision is used.