The XLIF procedure can be performed to eliminate instability or nerve compression in the back due to degenerated discs and/or facet joints. Disc degeneration results in a lack of proper spacing between the discs, which can cause severe and debilitating pain. Other conditions that might require surgery are the slippage of one vertebra over another or a change in the normal curvature of the spine – including scoliosis and other extreme curvatures of the spine.
XLIF involves a small incision in the patient's side over the hurt disc. X-rays guide tubes down to the spine using special tools to avoid muscle and tissue damage. They're locked into place with a flexible arm so the doctor can fuse the spine. (Conventional surgery requires a 12-inch incision.)
Aside from getting rid of the pain and recovering quickly, the XLIF has other benefits compared to the traditional open back surgery known as standard lumbar fusion. There is less blood loss, the incision is shorter, the operation is quick and the fusion of the spinal disc is better.
In the standard back surgery, it can take six months to a year to fully recover. But this new technique cuts that down to six to eight weeks.
Dr. Light says "XLIF has opened up the ability for me to do complex spinal surgery in a minimally invasive manner. It means the world for patients to be able to recover in the shortest possible time and return to normal activities."
The XLIF procedure is what is termed a “minimally disruptive” procedure. This means that instead of a traditional, large, “open” incision, the procedure is performed through one or more small incisions. An instrument, known as a retractor, is used to spread the tissues so that the surgeon can see the spine.
Before the advent of minimally disruptive spine surgery, the spine generally had to be reached through one large incision in the front or back of the body. The advent of minimally disruptive spine surgery allowed surgeons to reach the spine through small incisions (as opposed to a single, large incision). Minimally disruptive surgery is thought to be better for many reasons, including: less tissue trauma, less scarring, shorter hospital stay, and less postoperative discomfort, thereby affording a decreased need for postoperative pain medication.
Like all minimally disruptive spine surgery techniques, the XLIF procedure was developed from the need to treat disorders of the spine with the least amount of tissue (muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and abdominal organs) disruption possible, so that there is minimal tissue-related damage from the surgery, and the recovery time is therefore reduced.
For more information visit Dr. Kenneth Light's website: http://www.drkennethlight.com or call 415.673.4500.
Dr. Kenneth Light graduated from the Cornell University College of Medicine in New York City. He completed his residency in Orhopaedic Surgery at the University of California in San Francisco., and completed a fellowship in spinal surgery under the guidance of Edward H. Simmons at the State University of New York in Buffalo.
Dr. Light was director of the spine clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, and was founder and medical director of the San Francisco Spine Center at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery, is board certified with the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery and Assistant Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at University of California, San Francisco. He is currently in private practice in San Francisco where he specializes in reconstructive surgery in patients who have had failed back surgery.