Millions of adults suffer from back pain every year. Most cases of back pain are related to degenerative conditions. These disorders can lead to instability and intrusion into the spinal cord as well as the nearby nerves, causing pain in the back or pain that radiates down the arms or legs. For most patients with chronic back pain, the initial treatment choices include conservative measures such as pain medications, rest, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. Sometimes, steroid injections may be used. These treatments work for many patients, but for others, they are not enough.
Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF) is a surgical procedure that involves fusing the front part of the lumbar spine from the side. The surgeon creates an incision in the patient’s side between the pelvis and lower ribs and passes instruments through the muscles to the disc. The surgeon will then remove some of the disc material and place a fusion graft in the disc space. This graft is typically either a bone or bone combined with a cage. The surgeon uses fluoroscopy, an imaging technique that provides real-time moving pictures of the internal structures, to identify the correct surgical location. The bone graft or cage provides structural support during healing. The normal compression of the spine will hold the bone graft or cage in place.
XLIF is used to treat a variety of conditions and symptoms. Possible reasons for this procedure include:
Degenerative Disc Disease
“Degenerative disc disease” is a bit of a misnomer; it is not truly a disease but a condition involving a damaged disc that causes pain. Although almost everyone’s spinal discs show signs of aging as they get older, not everyone develops degenerative disc disease. This condition causes a wide range of symptoms, including acute pain that makes normal back movement challenging, intermittent back pain, and spinal instability. Degenerative disc disease has several possible causes, especially age. Wear and tear can cause the discs to dry out and stop absorbing shock as effectively. Sports and other activities can cause tears in the outer core of the disc. Also, acute injuries can lead to swelling and soreness. XLIF can address all of these problems.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curve in the spine; degenerative scoliosis refers to scoliosis that occurs as a result of wear and tear on the joints and discs if the spine. This type of scoliosis usually occurs in the lower (lumbar) spine and is the most common type in adults. Symptoms can vary widely between individuals; some people have no symptoms or only very mild indicators, while others experience disabling effects such as severe back pain when standing and numbness or weakness in the legs. XLIF is one possible treatment that can help patients get relief from their pain and other symptoms.
Recurrent Disc Herniation
Disc herniation is one of the most common causes of chronic back pain. Recurrent disc herniation is a possible complication after primary discectomy. This problem can cause significant suffering and expense for a patient. Risk factors include age, gender, body weight, tobacco use, diabetes, and herniation type and level. When disc herniation is recurrent, surgical intervention is usually indicated. XLIF can help fuse the disc into place and prevent a repeat of this painful condition.
What to Expect
Every patient’s surgery and recovery is unique. Be sure to ask your surgeon any questions you have about your procedure and what to expect. In general, most patients remain in the hospital for a day or two after surgery, but your surgeon may make a different recommendation depending on various factors. You may need to use a brace temporarily to assist with the fusion process. You will also receive assistance from trained medical professionals to sit, stand, and walk as early as within 24 hours after surgery.
When you return home, it will be essential to limit your activities for a while. Follow your surgeon’s instructions carefully regarding what pursuits to avoid and allow your body enough time to heal sufficiently. You will receive pain medication to take at home as well as a specific program of activities including exercise, wound care, and limitations to physical activities.
Dr Vivek P. Kushwawa is licensed to practice in Texas and California and certified by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. He is well-known for a range of procedures including Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, Anterior Cervical Discectomy, and many more. When you need back surgery, you can trust that we will provide competent, compassionate, patient-centered care. Contact us for an appointment today.