XLIF: Lumbar Spinal Fusion

The XLIF (eXtreme Lateral Interbody Fusion) is an approach to spinal fusion in which the surgeon accesses the intervertebral disc space and fuses the lumbar spine (low back) using a surgical approach from the side (lateral) rather than from the front (anterior) or the back (posterior).

The XLIF is one of a number of spinal fusion options that a surgeon may recommend to treat specific types of lumbar spinal disorders, such as lumbar degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis and deformity and some recurrent lumbar disc herniations and types of lumbar stenosis. It cannot be used for all types of lumbar conditions for which spinal fusion is a treatment option. For example, it cannot treat conditions at the lowest level of the spine, L5-S1 or for some people at L4-L5.


It is a minimally invasive type of spine surgery designed to accomplish a spinal fusion with several advantages including:

  • Minimal tissue damage
  • Minimal blood loss
  • Small incisions and scars
  • Minimal post-operative discomfort
  • Relatively quick recovery time and return to normal function.

Because of the above factors, it is one of a number of options for spinal fusion that are relatively minimally invasive.

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The XLIF is a type of interbody fusion, which is a category of fusion in which the disc in the front of the spine is removed and replaced with an implant containing a bone graft to set up the condition for the two vertebrae to fuse together through the disc space. Other types of interbody fusion commonly used to treat lumbar spinal problems include ALIF, PLIF and TLIF, each with its own set of potential advantages and disadvantages.