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Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion (DLIF)

Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion (DLIF)

A lateral interbody fusion (sometimes referred to as a LLIF, XLIF, or DLIF) is a spinal procedure that involves removing damaged disc material and inserting a bone graft between vertebrae. This surgery accesses the spine from the side of the abdomen, as opposed to anterior (ALIF) or posterior (PLIF) fusions, which access the spine from the front and back, respectively.

Why Would I Need a Lateral Interbody Fusion?

A lateral approach allows surgeons to access the spine without disturbing nerves, muscles and organs that are manipulated during ALIFs and PLIFs. Whether or not a patient is a candidate for this surgery depends on the location and nature of their spinal issue. Lateral fusions are used to correct spinal conditions such as:
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
General symptoms of spinal conditions include:
  • Back pain
  • Sciatica (pain in the lower extremities)
  • Tingling and numbness of lower extremities
  • Weak muscles

What is a Lateral Fusion Like?

Lateral fusions are minimally invasive, involving a small incision and limited intrusion. The steps of a typical lateral fusion are as follows:
  • Patient lies on side
  • An incision is made in the side of the abdomen
  • The psoas muscle is retracted to access the spine
  • Disc material is extracted
  • A bone graft and sometimes a plate and screws are inserted to facilitate spinal fusion
  • Muscles are returned to their original location and the incision is closed
  • Sometimes minimally invasive posterior screws are necessary to supplement the fusion.


Each patient’s case is unique. With minimally invasive lateral fusions, patients are usually discharged from the hospital the day after the surgery. Complete recovery and return to work may take several weeks. Many symptoms will be immediately relieved after the surgery, while others may improve gradually. Consult your spinal surgeon to establish a recovery plan specific to you.

Risks and Complications

Spinal surgery carries a small risk of infection, bleeding, blood clots, nerve damage, bowel and bladder issues and complications associated with anesthesia. Each case is different depending on the patient. Discuss your potential risks with your spinal surgeon.

To learn more about lateral fusion procedures or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.