Thanks to advances in spinal medicine, patients today can benefit from treatment regimens and procedures tailored to their individual needs and specific conditions. Among these recent advances on the surgical front is eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion, or XLIF. XLIF is a form of spine fusion surgery in which the surgeon accesses the intervertebral disc space approaching from the side (lateral) rather than from the front (anterior) or the back (posterior) of the spine.
XLIF is one of the endoscopic spine surgery procedures performed with microsurgery tools and techniques. The procedure utilizes electromyography, or EMG, a form of neuromonitoring, allowing the surgeon to test the nerves emanating from the spine during surgery to ensure they are not harmed or irritated. Nerves from the spinal column lie in close proximity to the psoas muscle surrounding the spine, which can be compromised during surgery. Requiring only small incisions, XLIF minimizes tissue damage, blood loss and scarring, and has a relatively quick recovery time. XLIF falls in a category of back surgery in which the disc in the front of the spine is removed and replaced with an implant containing a bone graft. The bone graft enables the two vertebrae to fuse through the disc space. XLIF offers a spinal fusion option for treating various types of lower back disorders including lumbar degenerative disc disease,spondylolisthesis, scoliosis and types of spinal stenosis.
A drawback of the procedure is that it involves fusing vertebrae, eliminating independent movement between adjacent levels. Today, thanks to another advance in spinal medicine – the TOPS™ System – in some cases a TOPS implant can be used in place of traditional spine fusion surgery. Unlike fusion, the TOPS System preserves the full range of motion of individual vertebrae, and the TOPS System has been proven to provide better outcomes than spinal fusion in clinical studies conducted around the world. This adds up to two breakthroughs in the treatment of spinal conditions, promising effective relief for many patients with back problems requiring a surgical solution.