What is Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF)?

As both a neurosurgeon and spine surgeon, Dr. Braxton performs minimally invasive oblique lumbar interbody (OLIF) surgery also known as a lateral spine fusion procedure. This approach provides sufficient access to the entire lumbar spine while avoiding damage to skin, muscles and nerves. A small incision on the patient’s torso side, called Kambin’s triangle, is where entry is gained. Disc repairs and fusions can be performed in a minimally invasive manner with oblique lumbar interbody (OLIF) surgery. Dr. Braxton works closely with patients to determine if oblique lumbar interbody fusion surgery is the right treatment course.

What is OLIF Used to Treat?

Dr. Braxton may recommend lateral fusion surgery, or oblique lumbar interbody fusion for patients diagnosed with lumbar spinal conditions. Most lumbar spinal conditions can be addressed through the oblique approach. The versatility of the procedure can be considered for patients with:

  • Lumbar spinal deformities including kyphosis or scoliosis
  • Degenerative lumbar disc disease
  • Instability or weakness of lumbar spine
  • Herniated lumbar disc
  • Compression or trauma fractures of lumbar vertebrae
  • Lumbar vertebrae slippage or spondylolisthesis

Pain, instability and weakness caused by any of these conditions will first be treated with non-surgical treatments. Dr. Braxton will closely monitor patient progress. If there is minimal improvement or symptoms worsen, candidacy for the lumbar spine surgery can be evaluated for optimal results. Dr. Braxton provides patients with a recommendation based on a comprehensive patient evaluation.

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How is Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF) Performed?

Lateral spine fusion surgery, or OLIF, is performed under general anesthesia. Unlike traditional lumbar surgery which approaches through the pelvic bone, the lateral approach avoids impacting muscles, ligaments and bone. An incision is made in the side of the patient’s abdomen and soft tissues are carefully separated to reach the lumbar spine. No major muscles are cut which preserves muscle strength. The soft tissue, nerves and muscles are carefully moved and separated so that, through the oblique, all lumbar vertebrae are reached. The cause of symptoms is then treated.

Damaged vertebral bone, or intervertebral disc, can be partially or totally removed. Bone graft or a spacer can be placed to maintain the intervertebral space and allow the bones to fuse. Screws, rods and plates may be used for added support. The soft tissues are carefully repositioned and the incision closed.

What is the Recovery Like After OLIF?

Patients may stay in the hospital 1 to 2 days or longer depending on the complexity of the procedure. Pain medication and a brace for lumbar support may be prescribed. Typical recovery protocol, both in hospital and home, are followed including comfort with walking, standing and basic movement; A light walking program can gradually increase. A course of physical therapy can begin as soon as the patient is ready. Return to work and full activities occurs more quickly with this minimally invasive surgery. Dr. Braxton will monitor patient progress to ensure optimal recovery so patients return to their preferred lifestyle as quickly as possible.

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