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In Plain English: What to Expect: Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

If you have heard about transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) surgery and are wondering whether it is right for you, be sure to consult with your doctor and spinal surgeon. This type of lumbar fusion surgery is generally recommended for patients with painful spinal conditions, such as Spondylolisthesis and degenerative disc disease, among others. Your spinal surgeon can help you decide if this is the best treatment approach for you and your condition. If you are a suitable candidate, read on to learn about what you can expect before, during, and after TLIF spinal surgery.

Before TLIF Back Surgery
In the weeks preceding your surgery, you will be asked to stop smoking or using any form of tobacco. You will also be asked to stop taking aspirin and any other blood-thinning medications. About six hours prior to your scheduled surgery time, you should stop drinking and eating. Immediately before the TLIF surgery is performed, you will be given general anesthesia to put you to sleep. A breathing tube will be placed, so that you breathe using a ventilator during the surgery.

During TLIF Back Surgery
First, you will be positioned so that you are lying on your stomach on the operating table. An incision is made in the midline of the low back, soft tissue is gently divided, and retractors are used so that the spinal surgeon can visualize the affected area. An x-ray is taken to confirm the appropriate position. The lamina portion of the bone, bone spurs, and intervertebral disc are removed. A bone spacer is placed and small metal rods and screws are used to provide immediate stability. X-rays will be taken to confirm correct positioning. Although the duration of the procedure depends on the number of spinal levels involved, generally, total surgery time is approximately three to six hours.

After TLIF Back Surgery

Most patients are up and moving around within several hours of surgery and are able to go home in two –four days. You will be able to drink after four hours. Early mobilization after surgery and early rehabilitation is aimed to decrease post operative complications such as blood clots, pneumonia and other associated conditions. Immediate leg pain relief post operatively is generally appreciated but the back pain predominates as the surgical site is painful. Four to six week recovery is generally expected prior to returning to most activities. Patients with demanding physical work may need up to three months to be able to go back to heavy labor.




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