WHAT IS TLIF?
The first spinal fusion procedures were performed in 1911, using a strip of tibia to fuse the spine and provide extra stability. Medical research has focused heavily on developing more effective and less invasive ways to perform the surgery, but this hasn’t done much to make spinal fusion less contentious. Long-term improvement is hugely ranging depending on the condition the procedure is intended to treat. Spinal stenosis patients do as well with surgery as they do with physiotherapy. Those with degenerative disc disease do a little better with surgery. This is true for fractures and spondylolysis, too, but disc herniations and general lower back pain usually don’t respond well to fusion.
UNDERSTANDING SPINAL FUSION
Today’s fusions can be done using minimally invasive techniques that cause less damage to soft tissue. There are many different approaches, all of which have the same goal: to relieve pressure on the nerves and stop the disc from causing pain. Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) uses an interbody spacer to restore height and stabilize the anterior spinal columns. Screws, rods, and a bone graft support the column. The procedure has shown remarkable results in trials. Patients’ pain was improved by between 60% and 80% depending on their diagnosis.
No surgery is free of risks, and TLIF has its potential complications. Nerve injury can happen, pain may continue, and the fusion may fail. These complications are rare, but they often happen because the cause of the patient’s pain wasn’t correctly identified. Getting an accurate diagnosis is one of the most important ways to benefit from TLIF. Patients should also exhaust other treatment options before considering the procedure.
Spinal fusion surgery is a relatively drastic approach that can have dramatic, and even life changing, results as long as it’s carefully chosen according to a well diagnosed condition.