Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion: Are You a Good Candidate?

Lower back pain – the kind that you might get from lifting something wrong or sleeping in a weird position – is all too familiar.

Sometimes it shows up as just a lingering dull ache. Other times, it’s a sharp stabbing sensation that shows up only when you bend or twist a certain way.

If you’re lucky, it’s only temporary. If you’re like almost 80% of Americans, it can turn into a chronic condition.

Chronic lower back pain has more than doubled in the U.S. since 1992, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

There are the usual culprits of lower back pain – an old mattress, sitting in a chair all day long, doing heavy lifting or strenuous physical labor – but there are a few things you might not realize are causing your lower back pain.

Your genetics can influence how much pain you feel. They play a part in determining how fast your bones deteriorate over time or if you have more nerves than average.

Whatever the case may be, you’re not alone in experiencing this all-too-common condition. But there is a solution – Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion.

What’s Going On With Lower Back Pain?

Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion is a mouthful for sure, but it’s an effective way to end your lower back pain for good.

Let’s talk about the spine itself for a moment before we get into what TLIF can do for you.

The spine is made out of individual bones called vertebrae. They form a canal through the center that allows your spinal column to travel from your brain to the base of your spine, completely protected by the hard bones.

The spinal column supplies nerves to your entire body. Two nerves branch off from the main bundle at each vertebrae and go where they’re needed. The holes where they exit are called the foramen.

Between each of the vertebrae is a disc – a jelly-like shock absorber for the body bones.

This interbody space can be damaged, causing bones to grind against each other, nerves to pull, or discs to slip out of alignment. As you can imagine, that really hurts!

Here’s where TLIF comes in. By fusing the vertebrae of the lumbar area, it reduces pain by stabilizing the spine and aiding the shock-absorbing discs.

The main goals of this minimally invasive surgery are to improve spinal stability, correct any kind of spinal deformities, and, ultimately, reduce pain.

No doubt you’re wondering if it’s painful or if there’s a long recovery process. Keep reading to find out what exactly is involved with this procedure.

How Does TLIF Work?

Spinal surgery can be scary. The good news is that TLIF is minimally invasive and you’ll even be up and walking the day after surgery.

So what happens during this procedure?

You’ll be under general anesthesia which means you’ll be asleep during the entire process.

The surgeon will first make a small incision above the vertebrae to be fused.

The surgeon then moves the muscles and skin apart from the operation site and removes the damaged disc.

The surgeon clears out most of the disc from between the vertebrae and prepares to insert the object the bone will graft to in order to stabilize the bones. This object can be a bio-compatible polymer implant or even a piece of the patient’s pelvic bone.

Once fused, the nerves are no longer impeded as they exit through the foramen, greatly reducing chronic back pain.

The procedure is fairly simple, but who qualifies to receive it? Are you a good candidate for TLIF?

Who Is A Candidate For This Procedure?

Of course, those who have back pain from just sleeping in a weird position or from a long day of moving house aren’t going to qualify. There are certain chronic indicators and diseases that a TLIF patient has.

Beyond back pain, there’s weakness or pain in the legs, meaning the nerves in the lumbar region are being affected.

Those who haven’t responded well to therapy or medicine also qualify.

There are also many degenerative spinal diseases that can be alleviated by having a Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion procedure.

One of the most common ones is Degenerative Disc Disease, where the vertebral disc is damaged and wears away.

A disc that wears down can bulge against the nerves exiting the foramen, pressing them against the hard bone and causing pain.

Sometimes, arthritic overgrowth takes over the bone. The extra bone pinches the nerve, resulting in a condition called Lateral Stenosis.

Your back pain could be a result of a condition called Spondylolisthesis, where the disc is weak and allows the vertebral bones to shift and slide out of alignment.

If your back pain stems from these or any other serious condition, TLIF is an option you should consider. But is it a long-term and successful solution?

Why Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion Works

Not only is TLIF a convenient surgery, it’s one with an extremely high success rate, too.

The surgery itself has been perfected to cause minimal issues for both patients and the surgeon performing it.

Although it’s a relatively small incision, there’s a larger surface area available to facilitate fusion. Fusion can be achieved in both the front and the back with one simple surgery.

By working with the foramen, pain, injury, and scarring to the nerve roots are reduced because the surgeon doesn’t have to forcefully retract them.

Once the procedure is complete, patients will be expected to stay in the hospital for up to five days and will be given narcotics to deal with the pain, but a walking program is started the very next day.

The success rate is incredible! Patients report a 60-70% reduction in pain after the surgery and about 80% of them are satisfied with the results post-op.

They quickly return to work and get back to enjoying their now-pain-free lives.

If you’re ready to work, move, and live without pain, contact Dr. Spivak and have a discussion about whether TLIF is your best option.