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Advancing Spinal Care with Minimally Invasive Lumbar Interbody Fusion (MIS-TLIF)

Introduction: In the dynamic landscape of spinal care, an innovative surgical technique has emerged in recent years – the minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MIS-TLIF). At The Spine MDT, our unwavering commitment to delivering optimal outcomes is fuelled by collaboration with a diverse team of professionals, including osteopaths, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, all under the guidance of a skilled spine surgeon. This comprehensive blog is designed to demystify the intricacies of minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion, its significance, procedural insights, and a comparative analysis with the conventional open approach.

Understanding Minimally Invasive Lumbar Interbody Fusion: Minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion is a revolutionary surgical intervention targeting a spectrum of spinal conditions, encompassing degenerative disc diseaseand spinal instability. Distinct from the traditional open approach, this advanced procedure involves smaller incisions, specialized instrumentation, and real-time imaging guidance (mostly X-rays), collectively minimizing tissue trauma and postoperative discomfort.

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The Procedure: Executing Minimally Invasive Lumbar Interbody Fusion:

  1. Incision Strategy: There are 2 very small incisions placed in the lower back overlying the area of concern. These are only about 2cm in length pleased either side of the midline of the lower back.
  2. Enhanced Visualization: Utilizing cutting-edge tools such as microscopes or endoscopes, the surgeon benefits from magnification and illumination, ensuring unparalleled precision during the procedure.
  3. Disc Removal and Fusion: Overgrowth from the facet joint and ligament is removed and the damaged disc is meticulously excised taking the pressure off of the nerves. This is then followed by the placement of a bone graft inside a spacer (cage) within the disc space. This catalyst initiates the fusion process between adjacent vertebrae, fostering spinal stability and alleviating pain.
    Executing Minimally Invasive Lumbar Interbody Fusion

    From The British Association of Spine Surgeons

  4. Screw Placement with Image Guidance:To augment stability, screws are meticulously positioned within the vertebrae (2 in each body) using image-guided technology (usually X-rays). This advanced approach optimizes accuracy and minimizes the risk of complications.
    Fused spine with screws and cage

    From British Association of Spine Surgeons

  5. Closure and Recovery:The small incisions are meticulously sutured, ushering in a shorter recovery period and reduced scarring, courtesy of minimized tissue trauma. The sutures are usually absorbable and therefore do not need to be removed.
Final x ray of fused spine with screws and cage.

Final x ray of fused spine with screws and cage.

Comparative Insights: Minimally Invasive vs. Traditional Open Lumbar Interbody Fusion: The merits of minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion are far-reaching, offering a host of advantages over the conventional open approach:

  1. Smaller Incisions: Reduced tissue trauma, minimized blood loss, and accelerated healing owing to smaller incisions.
  2. Enhanced Recovery: Mitigated postoperative pain and swifter return to daily activities, underpinned by reduced tissue disruption.
  3. Cosmetic Advancements: Diminished scarring and improved aesthetic outcomes due to smaller incisions.
  4. Real-time Precision: Image-guided technology ensures impeccable screw placement and superior surgical accuracy.
Minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion

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Risks and complications:

As with any surgical intervention, potential risks exist but are rare overall. These include:

  1. Paralysis. The risk of paralysis, which means loss of use of the legs, loss of sensation and loss of control of bowels and bladder is very low. Probably occurring less than one per 300 operations to about one per 1000 from historic data sets before minimally invasive techniques became more prominent in practice. We believe this to be less since the use of microscopes. It can be due to a haemorrhage forming immediately after the operation compressing the nerves or direct damage to the nerves. This is extremely rare, when carried out under the microscope. It is extremely rare for this to be permanent, and every effort is made to reverse the situation, including further surgery.
  2. Infection:Around 2%. Most resolve with antibiotic treatment but some deeper infections (less than 1% of cases) may require a further procedure to “wash” the infected area. Or in extreme cases removing the instrumentation.
  3. Spinal fluid (CSF) leak. An accidental tear to the lining of the nerves containing the spinal fluid occurs in about 2-3% of cases. Most of the time this can be repaired during the surgery without any consequences. Occasionally further surgery may be required to repair the tear.
  4. Damage to major blood vessels at the front of the spine causing life-threatening haemorrhage is also extremely rare at one in 10,000 cases from historic data.
  5. Instrumentation failure: Including movement of the cage, difficulty in screw placement or breakage of screws, or failure of fusion is reported in 2-5 out of 100 cases.
  6. Blood clots in the legs or the lungs (deep venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) is reported in 1 in 700 cases.

Conclusion: The groundbreaking technique of minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion exemplifies The Spine MDT's dedication to offering least invasive solutions for enduring outcomes. Our collaborative approach, uniting experts from diverse disciplines, fosters holistic patient care that is as transformative as it is comprehensive. Embark on a transformative journey towards a pain-free, vibrant life by exploring the unparalleled potential of minimally invasive lumbar interbody fusion. Contact us today to join hands with pioneers of spinal care and embrace a future of enhanced well-being.

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Where I Work



BMI - Chelsfield Park Hospital
Private Consultations and Surgery

Bucks Cross Rd, Chelsfield,
Orpington BR6 7RG

Call: 01689 877855


Spire - Hartswood - Brentwood
Private Consultations and Surgery

Eagle Way, Warley,
Brentwood CM13 3LE

Call: 01277 508161


BMI - London Independent Hospital

1 Beaumont Square,
London E1 4NL

Whilst surgery is carried out here for complex cases no consultations are held here.

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