Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)


A minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) procedure is often used to relieve pain associated with disc degeneration, herniated discs or spinal instability.

The procedure is only recommended once conservative measures, such as physical therapy, injections and medications, have failed.

TLIF stabilizes the spine and minimizes back and leg pain by fusing two or more vertebrae to prevent abnormal movement. Once fully recovered from TLIF, most patients report little to no back and leg pain.

A majority of patients treated at Orlando Orthopaedic Center report an improvement in their condition.

What is Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)?

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to stabilize the vertebrae. The spine is composed of 33 vertebrae that create the spinal column, which provides the main support for the body. During TLIF, a board certified spine surgeon essentially welds two painful vertebrae together so they heal into a single, solid bone to prevent abnormal movement.

By fusing the damaged or displaced vertebrae together, TLIF restores disc height and enhances spinal stability.

A patient may need TLIF if they suffer from:

  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Weakness or numbness due to instability in the spine

The instability, pain and weakness a patient suffers from can be a result of spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease or recurrent disc herniations.

If conservative methods of treatment such as physical therapy, injections or medications fail to alleviate pain, then a patient can consult with their spine specialist to determine if TLIF is right for the them.

What Happens During Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) Surgery?

When minimally invasive TLIF procedure is performed, your spine surgeon uses X-rays to precisely create small incisions on each side of the midline. Without cutting through the muscles, the surgeon will separate muscle fibers to provide access to the spine. By moving the muscle fibers rather than cutting them healing time and post-surgical discomfort is severely reduced for patients.

At this point, bone spurs and overgrown ligament are removed to create more room for the nerves in the spinal canal. The damaged spinal disc is removed to create space for the fusion spacer between the vertebrae. Screws are inserted into the vertebrae above and below the spacer and connected with rods to provide support to the spine while the bones fuse together over time.

What to Expect Following Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

After surgery, the patient typically spends two to four days in the hospital. Patients will have to wear a lumbar brace and bone growth stimulator. Patients will likely start walking the day after surgery and will undergo physical therapy.

Following surgery, a patient cannot participate in heavy lifting or repetitive bending or twisting at the waist for four weeks. Most patients return to light duty or office work in four to six weeks and heavy labor in nine to 12 months.

The Results of Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

TLIF is typically a safe and effective way to stabilize the spine and minimize pain. Most patients have successful surgeries and experience less pain after recovering surgery. After TLIF, most patients can return to normal activities without pain.

Think you're a candidate?

If you think you may be a candidate for one of these highly specialized procedures please contact my team!