Spinal fusion surgery bonds and immobilizes vertebrae to alleviate disc degeneration, instability, narrowing, or other spinal disorders. There are several approaches to spinal fusion surgery, all of which involve the following process:
- Adding a bone graft to a segment of the spine
- Stimulating a biological response that causes the bone graft to grow between the two vertebral elements to create a bone fusion
- The bone fusion then halts the motion at that joint segment
Spinal fusion removes bone and tissue that are narrowing the spinal canal and squeezing the spinal cord or the spinal nerves.
Minimally invasive spine surgery requires smaller incisions, causes less trauma to the surrounding normal tissues, and generally results in a faster recovery for the patient. One of these minimally invasive techniques is extreme-lateral lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF). During the XLIF procedure, the lumbar spine is approached from the side through a small skin incision. The surgery is performed through a muscle that lies next to the lumbar spine.
With the XLIF procedure, approximately two-thirds of the disc can be safely removed. After the disc is removed, an artificial graft is placed in between the vertebrae so the bones can fuse together.