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What is Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)?

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is a type of spinal fusion procedure in which bone graft is placed between the affected vertebrae in the lower back (lumbar) region through an incision on the patient’s back.

Indications for Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

Based on your spinal condition, age, activity level, and medical history, your surgeon may recommend TLIF as a treatment option in the following spinal instability conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease (damaged disc)
  • Spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra on another)
  • Spinal stenosis

The common symptoms associated with lumbar spinal instability are pain, numbness, and muscle weakness in the lower back, hips, and legs.

Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) Procedure

A small incision is made in the skin on your back over the affected vertebrae. Muscles encircling the affected spine are retracted to gain accessibility to the spine. The lamina covering the vertebra is removed to gain access to the nerve roots. Facet joints (structures that connect the vertebrae to one another) may be undercut or trimmed to provide more space for the nerve roots. The nerve roots are moved away to remove the disc material from the spine. A bone graft is inserted between the vertebrae. Screws and rods are fixed to stabilize the spine. Soft tissues are re-approximated and the incision is closed.

Recovery following Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

You will usually be discharged on the same day of the operation, but in some cases, your hospital stay may be extended. You will mostly observe immediate improvement of some or all of the symptoms, but sometimes the improvement of the symptoms may be gradual.

Your surgeon may recommend a few specific postoperative instructions for a fast and better recovery. Generally, you may be able to return to your routine activities within weeks after surgery.

Risks and Complications of Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

The primary risk of TLIF is the failure of fusion of vertebral bone and bone graft which may require additional surgery. The other possible complications associated with TLIF include:

  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clots
  • Blood loss
  • Bowel or bladder problems

  • Hao-Hua Wu, M.D.

    101 The City Drive South
    Pavilion 3 Building 29A
    Orange, CA 92868

  • UCI Health — Tustin

    1451 Irvine Blvd.
    Tustin, CA 92780

  • UCI Health — Newport Beach

    2161 San Joaquin Hills Road
    Newport Beach, CA 92660

  • UCI Health — Yorba Linda

    18637 Yorba Linda Blvd.
    Yorba Linda, CA 92886

Useful Links

  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • University of Southern California
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  • University of California San Francisco Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • AOSpine
  • North American Spine Society
  • Global Spine Research Initiative