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XLIF (Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion)

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In the XLIF procedure, a neurosurgeon approaches the spine from the side and inserts a spacer to correct curvature.

Extreme lateral interbody fusion, more commonly referred to as XLIF, is an advanced minimally invasive spine procedure that approaches from the side, avoiding the major muscles of the back. A spine surgeon makes a small incision in the patient’s side between the lower ribs and pelvis, then inserts a special surgical instrument just above the disc space. The surgeon removes the damaged disc tissue and inserts a spacer between the vertebrae. The surgical team monitors the position and correct placement of the spacer, sometimes using special screws or a plate on the side of the spine to offer additional stability. Patients typically are walking within a few hours of the XLIF procedure and are then discharged the next day. Most patients are back to work within approximately two weeks.  


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Reviewed by: Kai-Ming Fu, MD, PhD
Last reviewed/last updated: August 2021
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI