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Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

A transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is a surgery that involves accessing the lower portion of the spine (lumbar) through an incision in the back and inserting a bone graft between lumbar vertebrae to allow them to fuse. A TLIF is a specific kind of posterior fusion (PLIF), the main difference between them being the angle from which the spine is approached.

Why Would I Need a Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Lower Lumbar
TLIFs are used to treat a variety of lumbar issues. Whether or not a TLIF is preferable to other fusion techniques that approach the spine from different parts of the body depends on the nature and location of the spinal condition or damage. TLIFs can also be performed in some instances in a minimally invasive fashion.

TLIFs are typically performed for:

  • Lumbar instability
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis

Patients that may be in need of a TLIF often exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Sciatica (pain in the lower extremities)
  • Back pain
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in lower back, hips and legs

In most cases, surgery is only considered after non-surgical treatments have been attempted. There are multiple spinal surgeries available. Discuss your specific condition with your spinal surgeon to determine if a TLIF is right for you.

What is a TLIF Like?


Lumbar Laminectomy
Minimally invasive TLIFs involve a small incision and have a much smaller risk of complication and a much shorter recovery time than open surgeries.
Typical TLIF procedure:Incision TLIF
  • The patient lies face down
  • A small incision is made in the back over the targeted vertebra(e)
  • Muscles in the back are dilated to access the spine
  • The exterior “roof” of the spine (lamina) is removed, as well as one of the facet joints
  • Nerve roots are moved aside
  • Disk material is removed
  • A bone graft and screws and rods are inserted to allow vertebral fusion
  • The nerves and muscles are returned and the incision is closed


TLIF Recovery

Many patients will be discharged from the hospital in 1-2 days after a minimally invasive procedure, longer in an open procedure. Pre-surgery symptoms will often be immediately relieved. Other symptoms may gradually improve over time. Returning to work may take a few weeks, depending on several factors. It is important that you discuss the details of your recovery with your spinal surgeon.


Risks and Complications

X- RayThere is a small risk of infection, blood loss, blood clots, nerve damage, bowel and bladder issues and complications associated with anesthesia inherent in any spinal surgery. Every patient’s case is different. Consult your doctor about your potential risks.To learn more about TLIFs or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.