When a patient’s spinal column has become unstable due to the ravages of degenerative disc disease, wear, and tear injury, or other causes spinal fusion may be necessary to restore stability to the spine and aid in decompression. The spine consists of a series of individual bones known as vertebrae spaced with intervertebral discs, responsible for the protection and lubrication of the spine. These fluid-filled sacks are soft in the center with a remarkably robust exterior known as the annulus.
What Is Interbody Fusion?
Interbody fusion is a procedure that places bone grafts and fusion implants into the area located between two individual vertebrae. This fusion technique uses implants composed of a variety of potential materials, including bone, metal, and plastic. Grafts of bone may be inserted along with the implant to speed the bones to heal and fuse. The purpose of the implant is to stabilize a gap between two individual vertebrae, to relieve pressure and permit bone to grow and fill this gap. Additionally, this form of treatment can be used to correct the malformations of the spine and restore alignment.
What About Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)?
This procedure is performed under general anesthesia with the insertion of the instruments occurring through an incision on the back. The number of levels of vertebrae treated is directly related to how large these incisions are. During a TLIF, screws are inserted into the bone to encourage stability and permit fixation to these pedicle screws. The opening around the nerves is widened while the surgeon works beneath the neural foramen, from which the procedure gets its name. To complete the procedure rods are placed, and graft material is put in place near the back of the spine to provide additional fusion points.
What Will It Be Like Recovering from My TLIF?
It is common for patients recovering from this procedure to spend a minimum of two days in the hospital, and a maximum of four. Pain control after the surgery will be provided with IV pain medication while in the hospital, transitioning to oral medicines on discharge. The day after surgery will see the patient beginning a physical therapy program that will continue until the patient can walk safely, climb stairs, and getting into and out of bed before they are released.
This procedure is an efficient way of fusing the spine in the lumbar region, with the overall goal of relieving pain, improving stability, and addressing deformities of the spine. While complications can occur, they are uncommon and not a significant concern. Any smoking habits should be ended before the performance of this procedure as they have been shown to be hazardous to spinal health and the healing of bone.
If you think you may benefit from a TLIF, you should make an appointment at the Khavkin Clinic for an exam and consultation, during which Dr. Yevgeniy Khavkin will study your case and make an assessment determining the proper treatment. TLIF has been shown to be useful in providing patients with an improved quality of life due to reduced or eliminated pain.