Are There More Conservative Options For Lumbar Degenerative Disk Disease?

Degenerative changes of lumbar spinal discs occur as a natural process of aging. When accelerated due to health and lifestyle factors, degeneration causes inflammation of nerves, inability to absorb vertebral stress, or nerve compression. If pain persists despite over-the-counter pain medications, local interventions, and steroid injections, undergoing minimally invasive surgery, such as direct lumbar interbody fusion (DLIF), may be recommended.

minnesota valley surgery center 4 Questions To Ask Your Spine Surgeon About Direct Lumbar Interbody Fusion

What is direct lumbar interbody fusion?

Degenerative disc disease is the world’s leading cause of chronic back pain, consistently seen in aging adults. DLIF is a minimally invasive surgical procedure designed to relieve pain in the space between the lower spine and the sacrum for individuals suffering from severe leg or back pain due to degenerative disc disease. DLIF can improve the overall quality of life for many patients.

What is the success rate?

Unlike other invasive surgical procedures, the DLIF procedure does not disturb surrounding muscle and soft tissue, leading to quicker recovery times. Improved surgical execution is evident in numerous studies resulting in increased overall patient satisfaction. Commonly, 1-2 days are spent in the hospital if close monitoring is indicated. Yet, many minimally invasive DLIF procedures can be done in the outpatient setting as patients are commonly up and walking the same day of surgery. The overall success rate for patients undergoing minimally invasive DLIF is greater than those undergoing open spinal surgery.

Risks and possible complications

Undergoing surgical intervention of DLIF may help restore normal alignment of the lumbar spine due to abnormal spinal curvatures or prophylactically prevent pain and weakness, which in time contributes to misalignment in the spine. Although undergoing any surgical intervention presents the opportunity for postoperative pain, the use of minimally invasive techniques allows for a significant decrease in incision size and risk for complication. The patient is at risk for complications postoperatively, such as bleeding and infection. Patients undergoing spinal surgery should notify providers with worsening back or leg pain, numbness, tingling, or swelling.

What are the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery?

Technological innovations in minimally invasive spinal surgery have shown increased patient outcomes compared to traditional, open surgical approaches. With the minimally invasive DLIF, the surgeon utilizes technology-guided practices such as prior imaging to directly or indirectly guide the procedure. This allows for several benefits for both the patient and the surgeon. Surgeons can significantly decrease tissue dissection and incision size with reduced blood loss and operation time. In addition, patients often report decreased overall postoperative pain, quicker recovery time, and a shorter hospital stay. Patients should meet with the provider directly to evaluate if the DLIF procedure is the best option for individualized medical needs.

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