Spring 2013 Issue
|New Solutions For Existing Spine Problems
XLIF Provides Alternative To Standard Fusion
Spine surgery is constantly evolving, at times presenting new treatment options to patients who previously had none. Our team of spine surgeons at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates continues to seek, create and implement new spinal surgery techniques. For 75-year-old patient Julian Blackmon, the new XLIF procedure provided relief to his severe back pain when he thought he had run out of options.
A Life of Back Pain
Since the early 1990s, Julian Blackmon had suffered from back pain due to an arthritic condition in his spine. In 2003, he underwent a spinal fusion in his L3 to L5 region to relieve the intense pain that had progressed over time. The procedure helped but did not eliminate Blackmon’s pain.
By 2009, he couldn’t carry out normal activities without severe pain in his back and left leg. Bending, even slightly, to work in his yard or around his house was unbearable. That’s when his primary care physician referred him to Vinay Deshmukh, MD, FACS, at Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates.
“My doctor thought it was important to have a neurosurgeon take a look at my spine problem this time,” said Blackmon. After evaluation, Dr. Deshmukh diagnosed L2-3 adjacent level spondylosis and degenerative disc disease, in the area just above a previous fusion surgery. Blackmon first underwent conservative therapy including injections, physical therapy and pain management, but these treatments did not provide lasting relief.
“At the time, the only other option for treatment was another fusion procedure,” said Blackmon. “Dr. Deshmukh told me there might be some promising technology available soon if I could wait.” As a temporary measure to control pain and avoid another spinal fusion, a spinal cord stimulator was implanted. The device provided relief for several months.
In 2011, Blackmon returned to Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates with worsening back and right leg pain. This time, a new surgical option was available.
A New Minimally Invasive Solution
The XLIF, or direct lateral fusion procedure, is a minimally invasive alternative to traditional spinal fusion (PLIF) and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF). While PLIF and TLIF both use an incision in the patient’s back, in an XLIF procedure, the spine is approached from the side of the body to repair discs above L5-S1. The procedure results in reduced surgical times, less tissue damage, shorter hospital stays, minimal scarring and a faster return to normal activities.
Blackmon underwent the XLIF procedure in October 2011 and has had complete relief of his radicular symptoms since that time.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Blackmon. “I had no idea I would be able to get help. I really felt like I was in good hands with Dr. Deshmukh. He was always attentive to my questions and explained everything that was going on.”
“The growing number of minimally invasive spine procedures continues to make drastic improvements in patients’ lives,” said Dr. Deshmukh. “XLIF surgery is proving to be a very effective alternative to traditional fusion surgery for repairing discs above L5-S1.”
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