An advanced surgery in which the lumbar region is approached from the back or posterior of the body, transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion is used to stabilize the spine through the fusing of a bone graft in patients suffering from spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal), spondylolisthesis (which occurs when a vertebra slips out of place), lumbar canal stenosis and degenerative disc disease, all of which are associated with serious pain in the lower back which can radiate downward into the legs and feet.
A surgeon begins the procedure by making a small vertical incision in the back and removing a portion of vertebral bone in order to easily access one side of a damaged or deteriorated disc. A portion of the disc wall will be kept in place as a means of containing the bone graft, which is implanted in the now empty space. This corrects the realignment of the vertebrae and relieves pressure that had been exerted on the nerves in the area. Lastly, if the surgeon feels that additional support is needed to create stabilization, a series of rods and screws may be implanted as well to protect the bone graft, which will eventually become one solid piece of bone after it fuses properly with the remaining vertebrae.
A three-to-five-day hospital stay is usually required after transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion, during which medications are administered to manage post-operative pain. Also during this period physical therapies begin and focus on helping the patient recover and maintain their mobility. And assistive devices such as walkers and back braces may be recommended to support and aid the patient during the recovery and rehabilitation period.
Complications from transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion surgery are rare but do include nerve damage that occurs during surgery as well as infections and an improper fusing of the vertebrae and graft. But generally the procedure is very well tolerated and results for long-term relief of pain are excellent.