Minimally invasive fusion surgery is a term used to describe surgery that binds together two or more spinal vertebrae together while causing minimal disruption to the soft tissues around the spine, including:

  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Organs
  • Tendons
  • Veins and arteries

As a result, patients typically avoid a long hospital stay and experience a shorter recovery time.

Minimally invasive fusion surgery is designed to treat spinal conditions, including:

  • Damage to the spine due to infection or tumors
  • Degenerative disc disease (DDD): A natural deterioration of the spinal discs (the cushions between the vertebrae) as the body ages, resulting in loss of disc flexibility or disc herniation
  • Herniated discs: When the soft center of a disc leaks through a crack in the tough outer layer and puts pressure on the nerve or nerve roots
  • Scoliosis: An abnormal curvature of the spine that may resemble and “S” or “C” in shape
  • Spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal canal that places pressure on the spinal cord and associated nerves
  • Spondylolisthesis: When one of the vertebrae slips forward over the other

Types of Minimally Invasive Fusion Surgery

Each type of minimally invasive fusion surgery is primarily defined by the approach taken to reach the section of the spine that needs to be repaired.

Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)

A PLIF is a fusion procedure in which the surgeon enters the lumbar (low back) portion of the spine through a small incision. During the procedure, the surgeon:

  • Removes the bony covering of the spine (lamina) and then removes the affected disc material
  • Places a bone graft or cage containing bone graft material—which may be made of cadaver bone, taken from the patient’s hip or a synthesized material— in the empty space to promote the fusion of the two vertebrae together
  • Inserts screws to provide stability, and then applies bone graft material along the spine
Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion (DLIF)

DLIF is a procedure in which the spine is accessed through small incisions made on the side of the body between the ribs and the hip. It is also known as extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) or lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF). During the DLIF, the surgeon:

  • Moves the muscles and holds them aside using a tool known as a tubular contractor, then removes the affected disc material
  • Places a cage containing bone graft material into the empty space to promote the fusion of the two vertebrae together
  • Inserts screws to hold the cage in place (in some cases)
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

ALIF is a procedure performed on the low back (lumbar) portion of the spine by approaching it through a small incision in the front of the body—specifically, the lower abdomen. In doing so, trauma to the low back muscles is avoided. With ALIF, the surgeon has access to the front of the spine and removes the affected disc material. Then, a bone graft or cage containing bone graft material is placed into the empty space to promote the fusion of the two vertebrae together.

Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

TLIF is a procedure which is done through the back and fuses together the anterior (front) and posterior (back) columns of the spine. After the surgeon removes the affected disc material, a cage containing bone graft material is placed into the empty space on the anterior side. Then, the posterior side is locked in place with rods, screws and bone graft material.

Oblique Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLLIF)

With OLLIF, the affected portion of the spine is accessed through a small space on the side of the spine known as Kambin’s triangle. This space is free of significant vascular and neural structures, allowing for free access to the disc. Through this space, the surgeon can remove the affected disc material and place a bone graft in the available space.

The Leaders in Advanced Spine Treatment

At IGEA Brain & Spine, our surgeons are extensively trained in minimally invasive spine fusion techniques to effectively treat spine disorders. Our surgeons utilize these and other advanced surgical techniques as part of their commitment to superior care for patients living with brain, spine and neuroendovascular conditions.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.