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What Is XLIF/X-LIF Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion?

The XLIF surgical procedure is a minimally invasive spine surgery that’s used to treat back pain and other problems caused by a variety of different conditions, particularly disorders in your lower back. XLIF — or NuVasive XLIF, as it’s sometimes called — is a revolutionary new mode of back treatment. The biggest advantages of XLIF include:

  • Your spine surgeon enters the area that needs treatment from the side, or laterally.
  • Vertebrae are fused together after removing the discs between them, stabilizing your spine.

The XLIF procedure has other advantages over traditional spine surgery, such as less bleeding and less nerve damage. Most people who undergo the procedure are up and walking the same day — or the next day at the latest.

Dr. Branko Skovrlj, a neurosurgeon who focuses on complex spine issues, is an expert at minimally invasive spine surgery. XLIF is a procedure in his repertoire at NU-Spine: The Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Institute in Edison, New Jersey that brings you relief and better functioning with less downtime and fewer post-operative risks.

What Conditions Can an XLIF Procedure Treat?

XLIF is actually a very versatile procedure. It’s been found to effectively treat various conditions, such as:

  • Lumbar degenerative disc disease. When a disc or discs in your lower back start to deteriorate and deform, it causes lower back pain, nerve damage and serious mobility and functional problems.
  • Lumbar stenosis. This is a condition that narrows your spinal canal and leads to back pain, mobility issues, inability to work and nerve damage.
  • Lumbar disc herniation. When a lumbar disc bulges out and presses against your spinal nerves, it causess lower back pain that often radiates down one or both legs. XLIF typically is only used for herniations if you get them over and over.
  • Scoliosis. A serious condition, scoliosis refers to a spine that curves unnaturally from side to side, which causes severe pain and mobility issues.
  • Lumbar deformity. This condition is caused by a defect in your lumbar spine, such as lumbar kyphosis, a condition in which your back hunches forward, leading to self-confidence issues, pain, inability to walk without assistance and internal organ damage.

In some cases, XLIF can also be used to treat thoracic spine disorders in your middle back, but it’s more commonly used on the lumbar spine.

What Are the Benefits of XLIF?

XLIF is a minimally invasive spine surgery designed to cause less pain, do less damage to muscles and ligaments and offer a quicker recovery period. It’s also often used as a revision surgery when other procedures don’t work. Some of the major advantages of XLIF include:

  • Less bleeding
  • Less scarring
  • Avoiding muscle damage
  • Avoiding nerve damage
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Fast recovery time
  • Shorter surgery

Because of the angle used in an XLIF procedure, it’s not necessary to cut through your muscles. It’s also easier to avoid aggravating or damaging any nerves. Microscopic precision tools and computer feedback help your neurosurgeon make sure that he only makes the most accurate and pinpointed moves. XLIF also has the advantage that it acts like a lumbar decompression, providing more space for nerves.

What Happens in an XLIF Procedure?

After you and your New Jersey spine doctor have chosen XLIF and you’re prepared for the procedure, Dr. Skovrj follows a series of steps to perform the XLIF procedure:

  • You’re aestheticized with general anesthesia so that you’re asleep during surgery.
  • You’re placed on your side.
  • Live x-ray images help your spine surgeon find the exact place for the incision.
  • A three-quarter centimeter incision is made, which is the most common measurement used.
  • Precision tools are inserted through the incision to carefully perform the surgery.
  • With the continuous computer feedback, Dr. Skovrlj avoids any muscles or nerves.
  • The disc in question is removed and replaced with an implant that includes a bone graft to merge with the rest of your spine.
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