A minimally invasive surgical procedure effective in treating leg or back pain resulting from the deterioration of discs in the spine, direct lateral interbody fusion is undertaken through the patient’s side in order to access the lumbar region of the spine, helping surgeons to prevent unnecessary trauma to nearby back muscles.

Many patients suffering from a wide range of conditions leading to spinal instability are good candidates for direct lateral interbody fusion, including those with degenerative conditions arising from injuries and or other abnormalities. Patients experiencing spinal instability often have back and leg pain and muscle weakness due to compression of nerves in the spine, and these symptoms are often chronic and long-term and unable to be effectively treated with more traditional methods such as physical therapy or medications.

In commencing a direct lateral interbody fusion procedure, a physician will first make two small incisions in a patient’s side before inserting a probe that identifies nerves around the spine and helps the surgeon avoid damaging them. When the affected area of the spine is reached a series of tubes are placed over the probe to increase the amount of room in the opening and allow access to the spine via a retraction device. Operating within this channel, the damaged disc is removed and a bone graft is implanted in the space where the disc was formerly located. Realignment of the bones in this portion of the spine has now been achieved and pressure on the spinal nerves alleviated. And during the healing process the graft will grow and fuse to the adjacent vertebrae, stabilizing the area.

Because the procedure is minimally invasive in can oftentimes be performed on an outpatient basis, however it’s necessary to consult with a surgeon to ensure that it’s a viable option. Most patients resume normal activities and range of motions within three weeks, but a rehabilitation plan that includes physical therapy and specific exercise may be required in order to promote proper healing and long-term recovery.