333 East 38th Street, 6th Floor New York, NY 10016
Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is surgery on the spine approached from the back of the body with the purpose of placing a bone graft between two vertebrae. The goal is to stabilize the vertebrae and disc so that nerve compression is alleviated, therefore reducing back pain. Advancements in medical technology have opened up TLIF surgery to the benefits of minimally invasive surgical techniques.
What is minimally invasive surgery?
Traditional spine surgery involves making a large incision to open the back, as well as cutting the muscles near the damaged portion of the spine to fully access it. This invasive technique is hard on the patient. Performing TLIF as a minimally invasive surgery improves the experience by requiring small incisions and gently separating muscles near the spine instead of cutting them. This method causes less damage to surrounding tissues, minimizes scarring, reduces blood loss, reduces pain, requires shorter hospital stays, and allows faster recovery.
Why do I need TLIF?
This procedure may be recommended by a spine specialist such as Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City for patients with lower back instability who have not improved with more conservative treatments. Spinal instability can result from conditions like degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis. Symptoms of instability in the lower back may include pain, muscle weakness, or numbness. These symptoms might occur in just the back or can run down the hips and legs. A surgeon like Dr. Fischer will consider many factors such as your condition, age, overall health, lifestyle, and expectations before deciding if TLIF is right for you.
Are there risks to TLIF?
As with any surgery, treatment and its results vary according to each patient. Complications due to anesthesia are possible, along with infection, blood loss, blood clots, nerve damage, or bladder or bowel problems. There is also the risk that the bone and graft won’t properly fuse together, potentially requiring additional surgery. Dr. Fischer will explain the TLIF surgery completely and answer all questions you might have.
What about recovery?
The minimally invasive approach to TLIF means shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery time. Often, patients are released from the hospital the day after surgery. Many patients say that their symptoms are immediately improved following surgery, while others experience gradual improvement. Following Dr. Fischer’s instructions will help your recovery go smoothly and you should be returning to your normal activities within a few weeks.