XLIF Surgery: All You Need to Know

Nov 08, 2022

Extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF) surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that involves accessing the lumbar spine from the side. It is an alternative to traditional open-back surgery and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. The surgeon makes small incisions in the patient's side and uses special instruments to reach the lumbar spine. The goal of XLIF surgery is to relieve pain by treating spinal disorders and stabilizing the spine.

If you or someone you know is considering XLIF surgery, read on for everything you need to know about the procedure.

What conditions does XLIF surgery treat?

XLIF surgery is used to treat conditions that could not be treated with conservative methods (such as steroid injections, physical therapy, pain medication, etc.) and has continued to cause pain to the patient. These include:

  • Herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Tumors of the spine
  • Scoliosis
  • Kyphosis


XLIF Procedure

After having you go through the pre-surgical tests, the staff at the doctor's clinic will let you know the date and time for your surgery. You might want to read this guide on how to prepare for back surgery for a step-by-step guide to help you with preparing for XLIF surgery.

XLIF surgery, a minimally invasive procedure, begins with administering anesthesia to the patient. While the patient is asleep, the surgeon accesses the spine through small incisions between the ribs. Using X-ray reports, the surgeon locates the damaged area and removes any herniated discs or debris causing pain. Electromyography (EMG) guides the surgeon in positioning instruments near the spine's nerves to prevent further damage. After removing a portion of the spine, a bone graft is placed to fill the space within the vertebrae. Additional screws, plates, and rods may be used for spine stability. The surgery typically lasts about two hours.

Benefits of XLIF Surgery

Recovery after XLIF Surgery

This type of surgery is a newer, minimally invasive alternative to traditional spine surgery. Unlike other spine surgeries, XLIF does not require any large incisions or cutting of muscles and tissues. Instead, the surgeon accesses the spine through small incisions in the side of the patient's body. This results in less pain and a quicker healing time for the patient. XLIF is also successful in treating a variety of different spinal conditions, whereas other surgeries may only be effective for certain types of conditions. Some salient upsides to XLIF surgery include;

  • XLIF offers one of the biggest benefits: reduced surgery time. Completing the technique in as little as one hour results in less time under anesthesia and in surgery.
  • Minimally invasive surgical methods lead to less scarring, less blood loss, and faster recovery times.
  • Since the surgeon accesses the disc space from the side, you won't damage any sensitive back muscles or ligaments. Mostly, patients can walk to their homes the same day after surgery.
  • You will be able to resume your daily activities very soon after the surgery as recovery after XLIF doesn’t take more than 30 days.

Recovery after XLIF Surgery

Most people who have XLIF surgery experience a quick and easy recovery. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are a few things you should expect and be aware of during your recovery. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • You will likely be up and walking around the same day as your surgery.
  • You may experience some pain and discomfort for the first few days after surgery. This is normal and can be managed with pain medication.
  • You will need to take it easy for the first week or two after surgery. Avoid strenuous activity and lifting heavy objects.
  • You will need to change the dressings regularly to cover your incisions.
  • You will need to follow up with your surgeon for regular checkups.

Risks and Complications of XLIF Surgery

Although XLIF surgery is a safe surgical procedure, there do exist some risks when taking it up. Following is a list of some potential risks in an XLIF surgery;

  • Deep clotting in Veins
  • Reaction to Anesthesia
  • Failure of implant fusion
  • Different kinds of infections can occur
  • Injury to the nerves within the spine
  • Failure to relieve the patient of the pain (A condition known as Failed Back Syndrome)

Get XLIF Surgery in Los Angeles

In case you have been experiencing back pain and looking for minimally invasive surgical treatment for it, we are here to help. Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery is among the best spine care facilities in Los Angeles treating patients with spine problems for more than 10 years. Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe is the lead neurosurgeon here who is a top-rated spine surgeon in Los Angeles on websites like Yelp, findatopdoc.com, Google Businesses, and Healthgrades. You can schedule an appointment with her by filling out the contact form or calling (213)-369 4583.