TLIF, or Transforaminal Lumber Interbody Fusion surgery, is a type of surgery that accesses the spine through an incision in the back. The purpose is to insert a bone graft between two vertebrae. Spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer recommends TLIF surgery for patients who are unable to find relief from more conservative spinal treatments.
Who needs TLIF?
The main reason for TLIF surgery is spinal instability in the lower back from conditions like spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or spondylolisthesis. Typical symptoms that accompany these types of conditions include pain, muscle weakness, and numbness in the lower back, hips or legs. Before suggesting TLIF, Dr. Fischer will advise conservative treatments like medication, physical therapy, or activity modification. Your physician should consider your condition, age, overall health, lifestyle and normal activities before recommending TLIF as the solution.
Can it be done using minimally invasive techniques?
The great news about TLIF is that it can usually be performed using minimally invasive techniques that involve small incisions instead of making large open cuts to the spinal area. The muscles are gently separated to access the spine as opposed to cutting the muscles, which is much more invasive and uncomfortable. Minimally invasive surgery minimizes scarring and promotes faster recovery.
What are the benefits of TLIF?
Some of the benefits of TLIF and its minimally invasive process include:
- Less bleeding
- Less damage to ligaments and other tissues
- Less risk to neural structures
- 360-degree fusion
- Less bone removal
- Access from the back instead of the front of the body, which can carry more complications
- Increased spine stability
- Quicker recovery and return to normal activities
What is recovery like after TLIF?
Many TLIF patients are discharged from the hospital the day following surgery, although some may need to stay longer. Some symptoms of the condition that led to surgery are immediately reduced following the TLIF procedure, while others may improve gradually. Many TLIF patients return to their normal activities within a few weeks after surgery. It is important to follow the instructions of Dr. Fischer during the days and weeks after surgery to ensure the best chance for success.