What are XLIF and TLIF?

Lateral Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF) and Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) are both endoscopic spine surgery procedures that can be used to treat a herniated disc, pinched nerve, Spondylolisthesis, and other spine abnormalities.

Both procedures relieve symptoms of lower back and leg pain. Both are minimally invasive stabilization procedures. The damaged disc in your spine is replaced with an implant that is filled with bone graft. The implant is further secured with screws which prevents motion and the accumulation of further damage in your spine at that area.


TLIF is more similar to other forms of endoscopic spine surgery in that you are laying on your stomach and the surgeon uses a series of dilators to part the muscles in your back and access the spine. XLIF is a relatively new endoscopic spine procedure that uses real-time x-ray, allowing the surgeon to access your spine through the side of your body and avoid disrupting major muscles in your back.

Although XLIF minimizes disruption, its use is limited to vertebrae that can be easily accessed through the side of your body. Also only one or two vertebral levels can be accessed and operated on at a time, excluding XLIF as an option for patients needing spine surgery on more vertebrae.

Is One Better?

Current research says that both procedures are comparable. Both procedures require approximately three hours in the operating room and both procedures yield significant improvement in both back and leg pain. Blood loss during the procedure was lower in patients who underwent XLIF relative to patients who underwent TLIF, though some XLIF patients experienced weakness in the hip for about a year. (source)

Ultimately the most important factor is that you find a surgeon that you are comfortable with. Both XLIF and TLIF reduce the amount of blood loss, chance of infection, and post-operative scarring relative to traditional spine surgery and both are powerful options for reducing back and leg pain caused by spine abnormalities. If you are looking for pain relief in Chicago IL or the in the south suburbs around Orland Park IL, request an appointment or take advantage of our FREE MRI review. Our center is home to leading spine doctors and is fully equipped for everything from MRI imaging and pain management injections to minimally invasive spine surgery.