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LLIF is a fusion during which the surgeon makes a small incision on the person’s side, under their ribs to approach the spine from a lateral direction. This allows the surgeon to perform a spinal fusion without disrupting the muscles of the spine. The LLIF procedure may be accompanied by another procedure that is fairly common, percutaneous instrumentation of the spine. In this procedure, the surgeon places rods and screws between the muscle fibers, often using computer navigation or intraoperative X-ray as opposed to removing the muscles from the spine as is done with traditional spinal fusion surgery. When possible, we seek to utilize a minimally invasive approach, if it is an appropriate option.
What are some types of back surgery? NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) lists the following as some of the surgical options for low back pain. But NINDS also cautions that “there is little evidence to show which procedures work best for their particular indications.” Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. These procedures are used to repair compression fractures of the vertebrae caused by osteoporosis. Both procedures include the injection of a glue-like bone cement that hardens and strengthens the bone.
How do you know when you need spine surgery? When someone comes to us with extremity symptoms, we almost always suggest they first get an evaluation with their primary care physician. If a person is experiencing low back pain or neck pain, we will usually watch them over time and encourage them to maintain good, stable physical activity to see if the issue resolves. If the issue is not resolving with physical activity, over the counter treatments, or pain management and anti-inflammatory medication, the next step would be to see a doctor for an evaluation.
Spinal fusion. The surgeon removes the spinal disk between two or more vertebrae, then fuses the adjacent vertebrae using bone grafts or metal devices secured by screws. Spinal fusion may result in some loss of flexibility in the spine and requires a long recovery period to allow the bone grafts to grow and fuse the vertebrae together. Artificial disk replacement. This is considered an alternative to spinal fusion for the treatment of people with severely damaged disks. The procedure involves removal of the disk and its replacement by a synthetic disk that helps restore height and movement between the vertebrae.
A neurosurgeon is a specially trained medical doctor who diagnoses and treats conditions that affect your nervous system — your brain, spinal cord and nerves. Neurosurgeons perform surgery on your nervous system, but they can also provide nonsurgical treatments. They typically try all nonoperative treatment methods — like medications, steroid injections and physical therapies — before recommending surgery. Neurosurgeons can also diagnose and treat conditions that affect the structures that support your nervous system, including: Your skull. Spinal vertebrae. Spinal disks. Blood vessels. Protective membranes and soft tissues.