Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

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The Most Effective Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

The transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) procedure is the most effective minimally invasive spine surgery for patients suffering from severe nerve compression in the lower back (lumbar) region. This procedure involves using bone grafts and special implants to fuse two adjacent vertebrae in the lower back after removing the damaged and herniated spinal discs, thereby decompressing the pinched nerve roots. The procedure is performed via a few small incisions on the back instead of one large incision, so it’s extremely safe.

What is a TLIF Procedure?

The details of the TLIF procedure are encoded in the name:

  • Transforaminal indicates that the muscles in the back are carefully dilated to access the underlying spine, ensuring minimal muscle and tissue disruption.
  • Lumbar is the medical term for the lowest region of the spinal column, i.e., the fiver vertebrae that comprise the lower back region.
  • Interbody refers to the spaces between the five vertebrae in the lower back region, i.e., the intervertebral discs that cushion the vertebrae of the spine.
  • Fusion refers to surgical techniques that join two adjacent vertebrae using bone graft materials and various implants, such as rods, plates, screws, and spacers.

Situations When TLIF is Needed

The transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) procedure is suitable for patients with severe spinal disorders that cause nerve compression in the lower back region, such as spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease. These spinal disorders reduce the space in the spinal canal and may lead to the formation of bone spurs, thereby increasing the risk of nerve compression. When the nerve roots are pinched or compressed, you experience radiating pain at various points of your body.

You may need a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) if you experience the symptoms of nerve compression in the lower back region, such as sciatica pain, radiating pain in your buttocks and legs, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling sensations, loss of mobility, instability, and an inability to walk comfortably. These neurologic symptoms indicate that you may have severe nerve compression, necessitating a minimally invasive spine surgery to remove the damaged structures and decompress the nerves.

Dr. Kakoulides only recommends the TLIF procedure as a last resort. Most patients can achieve considerable pain relief with conservative treatments, such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, injections, and rest. Your surgeon should exhaust all non-invasive solutions before recommending a surgical procedure. In most cases, the minimally invasive TLIF procedure is only necessary if the symptoms persist or if you have the symptoms of severe spinal disorders, such as loss of mobility and muscle weakness.

TLIF: Benefits

  • Performed as a minimally invasive procedure
  • Only involves a few small incisions on the back
  • Involves minimal muscle and tissue disruption
  • Minimal bleeding and blood loss during surgery
  • Minimal risk of infections or complications
  • Alleviates symptoms of nerve compression in the lower back
  • Removes the damaged spinal discs
  • Facilitates natural fusion of the adjacent vertebrae
  • Resume most daily activities in a few days

TLIF: Your Journey

Dr. Kakoulides performs your minimally invasive TLIF procedure under general anesthesia. He makes a few small incisions on the lower back region and dilates the muscles and tissues to access the underlying spine. This technique ensures minimal muscle disruption. After removing the damaged spinal discs responsible for nerve compression, the surgeon uses various techniques to restore optimal spinal space.

Dr. Kakoulides also inserts spinal implants and bone grafting materials to restore spinal stability and fusion. The implants, such as rods, spacers, cages, and screws, join the two adjacent vertebrae to restore spinal stability, whereas the bone grafting materials encourage natural bone regeneration. Over time, new bone tissues grow in and around the implants, fusing the two vertebrae together. This procedure involves minimal downtime.