Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

For Treatment of Back Pain, Leg Pain and Nerve Irritation

Transforaminal lumber interbody fusion (TLIF) treats problems of the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine. Minimally invasive TLIF is used to treat back and/or leg pain usually caused by degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.

This procedure is performed minimally invasive by using two small incisions (instead of one larger incision) in the middle to decrease trauma to the muscles that provide stability to the spine. During the procedure, the spinal disc is removed and replaced with a spacer containing bone graft. The two bones (vertebrae) adjacent to the replaced disc are joined together with rods and screws to hold them in place while the bones fuse. The graft helps the new bone grow, fusing the two vertebrae into one solid piece.

Minimally invasive spine (MIS) procedures include the following benefits:

  • Shorter recovery time
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Decreased blood loss
  • Less damage to tissues and muscles
  • Smaller scars
  • Quicker return to daily activities

Who is a candidate?

MIS TLIF may be recommended to treat a number of spine problems. However, the majority of people with these conditions will be successfully treated with conservative measures—that is without surgery.

Only after conservative measures have failed to relieve symptoms will surgery be considered. Some common problems that may be treated with lumbar fusion include:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease – Age and wear and tear can cause the discs that act as cushions between each vertebrae to shrink, allowing abnormal movement. This abnormal movement can again result in an unstable area in the spine and compress the nerves, causing leg pain and numbness.
  • Arthritis – Arthritis of the spine can lead to spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal caused by bony spurs forming on the vertebrae, narrowing the openings through which the nerves and nerve roots must travel. This narrowing can cause pressure on the nerves, resulting in pain, numbness, tingling or weakness down the legs.
  • Spondylolisthesis – This term describes a particular type of abnormal movement of the vertebrae. With spondylolisthesis, one vertebra has slipped forward over another. If the vertebrae continue to slip back and forth, the spinal nerves may be affected, causing leg pain, numbness, tingling and/or weakness.

Where does the bone for a fusion come from?

The bone graft can be taken from you or from a bone bank. If using your own bone, local bone is saved during the surgery. Bone from a bone bank is a good option, especially if your own bone is weak or damaged from osteoporosis. In addition, synthetic bone graft may be used.

How long will it take to recover?

Recovery time after MIS TLIF varies depending on your particular situation, the number of levels involved, as well as your general health. Many people will return home after one to two days in the hospital. Your doctor will give you specific instructions on activity levels, including when you can resume driving and return to work.

Contact Us for More Information or Physician Referral

We are happy to answer your questions. Our nurse navigator can be reached at (619) 229-4548 or by e-mail. To find a spine surgeon affiliated with our program, please click here or call (800) 258-2723.