Extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) procedure is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat leg or back pain generally caused by degenerative discs where the spine is approached through the patient’s side to avoid major back muscles, bones and ligaments. The XLIF is one of a number of spinal fusion options to treat specific types of lumbar spinal disorders, although it is not an option to treat conditions at the lowest level of the spine, L5-S1 or for some people at L4-L5.
This procedure helps reduce long-term back or leg pain for those who have not responded to other treatments, including steroid injections, physical therapy and pain medication.
Two small incisions are made: one directly over the side of the waist and the other slightly behind the first, toward the back muscles, allowing for a more complete removal of the damaged disc and implant insertion, compared with traditional posterior procedures.
Advantages of XLIF include less pain, less blood loss and scarring, less surgery time and a shorter hospital stay. XLIF also means a faster return to normal activity, since patients usually walk the day of surgery and full recovery takes just a few months as opposed to six months with more traditional approaches.