What is a

Minimally Invasive Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Spinal Fusion may be chosen when conditions like spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease or recurring disc herniations are present. One of the techniques a surgeon may use is the Transforaminal Lumbar interbody Fusion, also called TLIF (pronounced Tee-Lif). This surgery is designed to eliminate most of the damaged disc that is causing the back pain.


The TLIF Technique

Using the Posterior (through the back) technique, the surgeon makes one or more small incisions in the back. Since the surgery is most often performed from only one side of the spine, recovery time is often faster than with a traditional fusion procedure. Once the incisions are made:

  • Parts of the vertebral bone are removed to grant access the disc
  • The damaged disc is partially removed
  • Some of the disc wall is left behind to help contain the bone graft material, which is usually taken from the patients pelvis
  • The implant is placed in the disc space, which helps realign the bones and lifts the pressure on the pinched nerve roots
  • Remaining space within the disc may be filled with morselized bone
  • Pedicle screws and rods are put into place to stabilize the spine

After the stabilizing rods and screws are attached, morselized bone grafts are put into place along the sides of the spine. They will eventually grow through and around the implant, connecting the vertebral bodies above and below. This is called a “fusion”.


Benefits of TLIF Back Surgery

With this back surgery technique, there are several advantages to other forms of lumbar fusion, which include:

  • More effective bone fusion as bone graft is placed along the sides of the spine and also in the disc space
  • The spacer, inserted into the disc space, helps restore the original height of the disc space and opens up the nerve foramina, relieving painful pressure on the nerve roots
  • Recovery time is lessened, because of the unilateral approach (from one side)