Skip to main content

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (LLIF)

What is a lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF)?

A lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF), also known as an extreme lateral interbody fusion (XLIF), is a minimally invasive surgical procedure performed to alleviate pain and help stabilize the lower spine.

This spinal fusion procedure involves accessing the spine from the side of your body rather than an anterior or posterior approach. Similar to other spinal fusions, a lateral lumbar interbody fusion involves fusing two or more intervertebral disc levels to prevent movement between them. 

At NeuroSpine Plus, Dr. Scheid and Dr. Hunt, have extensive experience performing this surgery, transforming the mobility and spinal health of many patients. To learn if you qualify for a lateral lumbar interbody fusion, call our office for a consultation with one of our spinal specialists at 201-399-3388


What conditions are treated with a lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF)?

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (LLIF) is an effective treatment option for various prevalent conditions causing low back pain and/or radiating leg pain. A posterior lumbar interbody fusion may be recommended if you have:

If you believe you may be a candidate for a lateral lumbar interbody fusion, call our office today to book your consultation at 201-399-3388.

How is a lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) performed?

On the day of surgery, you will be given general anesthesia by a trained anesthesiologist. You will be completely asleep before the procedure begins. 

Depending on pathology and surgical discussion, this procedure may take 1-2 hours. After you are asleep, you are carefully positioned onto your side and secured into place on the surgical table.

  1. A small incision(s) is made on your side.
  2. With specialized retraction instrumentation, your musculature will be gently moved to access the spine from a lateral position
  3. The affected disc(s) are removed with specialized instrumentation and the affected nerve roots are freed from any bone spurs or compressing disc fragments.
  4. A surgical disc spacer, also known as an interbody or cage, is then inserted into the space where your disc used to be and secured.
  5. An x-ray will then be taken to ensure the implant is properly positioned before the incisions are closed.
  6. The incision(s) will be closed with multiple layers of dissolvable sutures and covered with a dry, sterile dressing

If advised by your surgeon, you will wear a supportive lumbar brace following surgery. Over time, the levels operated on will ‘fuse’, or grow together, like one continuous bony structure.

What to expect following a lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF)?

Your postoperative healing progress will be closely overseen by our team of providers, ensuring a routine recovery. A member of our team will contact you within the first 48 hours of your procedure to monitor your progress. Your initial post operative appointment will be scheduled within two weeks of your surgical date. A member of our team is always available to answer questions or address your concerns during your recovery period.

General postoperative recommendations include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Use of postoperative pain medications as prescribed
  • Over-the-counter Tylenol for pain
  • Advance your diet as tolerated as discussed with your team; ensure regular bowel movements.
  • Avoid bending/twisting/ lifting
  • Do not lift greater than 10 pounds
  • Do not smoke
  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments
  • Do not use NSAIDs until cleared by your surgeon (Advil, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, etc)
  • Incision care includes washing your incision with gentle antibacterial soap 48 hours after your procedure. No scrubbing, submerging, or soaking the incision(s). No lotions, creams, oils, or ointments atop the incision(s).
  • You will likely stay at least one night in the hospital following your surgery. 
  • You may be fitted for a lumbar brace either before your surgery, or immediately following your surgery. 
  • You may begin walking with assistance on the night of surgery.

At NeuroSpine Plus, we encourage an active recovery, with many patients walking up to two miles within the first two weeks following their procedure. 

When to contact your doctor's office following a lateral lumbar interbody fusion?

If you have concerns during your postoperative period to include, but not limited to the following:

  • High fever greater than 100.4F
  • Change in urinary or bowel habits
  • Swelling or discoloration of one or both calves
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Incisional compromise
  • Loss of strength in your arms or legs

If you have a question regarding your initial postoperative period, a member of our team is always available to answer and address your concerns at 201-399-3388.

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) FAQs

The recovery time for a lateral lumbar interbody fusion can vary based on your age, preoperative spinal condition, and medical comorbidities. Our neurosurgeons will discuss all risks, benefits, surgical details, and concerns with you prior to scheduling your procedure. 

All surgical procedures have an inherent level of risk associated with them. With the LLIF procedure performed by our board-certified neurosurgeons, the risks are rare. All risks and benefits associated with undergoing any surgery at NeuroSpine Plus are discussed at length with our board-certified neurosurgeons prior to proceeding with your procedure. 

If you believe you may be a candidate for an LLIF procedure, call our office today to book your consultation at 201-399-3388.

Schedule an Appointment