A Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion is a surgical procedure used to treat lower back and/or leg pain that is associated with movement. The procedure is among the most commonly performed procedures in spine surgery. It is used to treat spinal instability in conjunction with the following conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Disc herniation
  • Sciatica
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis

In recent years, advancements in surgical techniques have allowed the procedure to be performed minimally invasively using one of the following three approaches:

  1. An anterior approach. From the front.
  2. A posterior approach. From the back.
  3. A lateral approach. From the side.

Before learning more about each approach, it is important to go over the basics of a lumbar fusion procedure.

An Overview of a Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion

During a minimally invasive lumbar fusion procedure, an orthopedic spine surgeon partially or completely removes lumbar intervertebral disc or discs that are damaged. If the spinal cord or a spinal nerve is compressed or pinched, a decompression is performed by removing pieces of vertebral bone that are putting pressure on the nerve. An implant, referred to as a cage, packed with bone graft is placed in the disc space and the vertebrae are fixated using rods and screws. Following the procedure, bone graft and existing bone fuse to form a single, solid vertebra that no longer produces pain with movement.

spinal fusion

Illustration 1- Rods and screws are used to hold adjacent vertebrae in place while they fuse

The Three Approaches for Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion

  1. A posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) is a commonly performed lumbar fusion procedure. Painful lumbar vertebrae are accessed by making a small incision over the lower back and gently retracting lumbar muscles and nerves. The advantages of the posterior approach are that it allows the surgeon to fuse multiple levels of vertebrae and easily perform a spinal decompression if it is needed.
  2. An anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) uses an anterior approach. The lumbar vertebrae are accessed by making a small incision near the abdomen and retracting the abdominal muscles and contents to the side. Accessing the lumbar vertebrae in this fashion is advantageous because the lumbar muscles and nerves are not traumatized. This speeds up the recovery process and enables patients to respond well to physical therapy.
  3. A direct lateral or extreme lateral interbody fusion (DLIF or XLIF) accesses the lumbar vertebrae using a lateral approach. During a DLIF or XLIF, the patient is placed on their side and a small incision over their flank is made. The benefits of the approach are similar to those of an ALIF.

Seeking Treatment

If you’re experiencing back or leg pain, weakness, and/or numbness that won’t go away, please don’t hesitate to contact our offices to arrange an appointment with one of our Orthopedic Spine Specialists.  We have locations in Glen Rock and Maywood, NJ.

The spine specialists at New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery treat conditions of the cervical and lumbar spine using both non-surgical and surgical modalities.  New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery is led by Dr. Dante Implicito and Dr. John Koerner. Both physicians have extensive training and experience in the utilization of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery techniques as well as non-surgical techniques. Our doctors are regarded as New Jersey’s leading experts in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.

Once your condition has been evaluated and diagnosed, a treatment plan will be made. If a nerve decompression is recommended, you’ll be given all the information you need to make a decision that’s right for you. Remember, the road to recovery starts when you walk through our doors.

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