When a spinal disc is damaged to the point where a neurosurgeon recommends complete removal, a common surgical procedure is to perform a discectomy followed by fusion of the surrounding vertebrae to close the physical gap left by the extracted disc. While there are multiple methods of performing a spinal fusion, direct lateral interbody fusion (or DLIF) is one of the newest.

The “direct lateral” portion of the procedure name refers to the fact that the spine is approached not from the front (anterior) or back (posterior), but from a small incision in the side using specialized tools and procedures. When entering the body from the side, it is easier to avoid large blood vessels, organs, nerves, and other elements than it is to avoid them from the front or back of the body. By reducing contact with such sensitive tissues and structures and using smaller-than-usual incisions, direct lateral interbody fusion is intended to shorten patient recovery time and reduce the risk of surgical complications.

Direct lateral interbody fusion surgery may be performed in cases of:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated discs
  • Spondylolisthesis (a condition in which a vertebra slips forward)
  • Vertebral fracture
  • General spinal instability

Naturally, not every patient is a candidate for the side approach of direct lateral interbody fusion. Depending on one’s anatomy, internal structure, general health and medical history, the lateral option may not be ideal (or may simply not hold a benefit over posterior or anterior approaches). For some patients, a combination of lateral and posterior approaches may be employed. In any fusion procedure, the method by which it is performed should be chosen on a case-by-case basis via a thorough conversation between the patient and his or her doctor.

If you have suffered spinal damage from a degenerative disc disease, injury or other condition and would like to discuss whether a discectomy followed by a direct lateral interbody fusion could be a solution for you, get in contact with our Frisco, TX office to make an appointment to speak with Dr. Neece.