How Serious is TLIF Surgery?

How serious TLIF Surgery

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) is an effective form of spine surgery used to treat lower back pain. It involves the removal of a damaged disc to fuse the two adjacent vertebrae together, essentially reinforcing the spine. Because TLIF surgery is an invasive procedure, it carries certain risks and potential complications. As such, it is vital to have a thorough consultation with your doctor to discuss the risks and potential benefits before deciding if TLIF is suitable for you. 

There are several indications for TLIF, including:

  • Discogenic/acetogenic low back pain

  • Neurogenic claudication

  • Radiculopathy caused by foraminal stenosis

  • Lumbar degenerative spinal deformities such as spondylolisthesis and degenerative scoliosis.

Depending on the severity of the condition, this surgery can involve fusing together two or more vertebrae using bone grafts and plates or screws. The recovery period for TLIF surgery can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months and may require physical therapy. As with any surgery, there can be risks of infection, nerve damage, and pain.

Ultimately, this procedure is a major endeavor, and the patient should weigh their individual health risks in consultation with their doctor before committing to any procedure.

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TLIF Surgery Success Rate 

Studies have shown that TLIF surgery has favorable results;

  • After TLIF spinal fusion surgery, pain may improve by 60% to 70%

  • The fusion rate of open and minimally invasive TLIF is around 90%

  • There is a high rate of satisfaction with the surgical results of TLIF spinal fusion surgery among patients who have undergone this procedure.

Risks And Complications of TLIF Surgery

TLIF is no different from any other surgery when it comes to complications. These include:

Risk due to Anesthesia: 

The advantages of general anesthesia for all types of spinal procedures include the following:

  • Patient tolerance.

  • Secure airway.

  • Better surgical exposure under muscle relaxants.

  • Early postoperative exam without the confounding results of conventional epidural anesthetic agents.

  • Better control of intraoperative hemodynamic changes.

However, it carries risks, particularly in patients over the age of 65 and with cardiopulmonary disorders. This type of anesthesia also has risks, particularly in elderly patients.


Infections at surgical sites are unwelcome and inconvenient complications that can occur after spinal surgery. Infection rates have been reported to range from 0.7 to 11.9%, depending on the diagnosis and procedure complexity. Aside from operative factors, patient characteristics may contribute to higher infection rates.

Infection may occur due to medical instruments and devices used during surgery. Obesity, diabetes, and smoking are all significant risk factors for postoperative infection.

Excessive blood loss:

Considering that substantial bleeding during lumbar fusion is associated with a higher risk of morbidity and prolonged hospital stay, it is essential to identify the risk factors for significant blood loss during the preoperative assessment and to determine what level of care is needed after the procedure.

Patients can avoid this by donating blood before their surgery and receiving a blood transfusion during or after.

Nerve injury: 

Nerve injury is a possibility with TLIF. Accessing the spinal canal, decompressing nerve roots, removing disc material, placing interbody devices, and pulling nerves aside all pose risks. Injured spinal nerves during TLIF can result in pain, numbness, and weakness in one or both lower limbs.


Also referred to as failed spinal fusion. To correct a failed spinal fusion, a second surgery may be required.

Lower Back Pain:

A new complaint of lower back pain or persistent back pain may develop in a few cases following spinal surgery. When compared to minimally invasive TLIF, open TLIF increases the likelihood of developing new back pain.

  • The hardware used to stabilize the vertebral column can sometimes cause additional pain or discomfort.

  • Arachnoiditis, a rare but serious condition caused by inflammation of the spinal cord's protective covering, is also a possibility.


TLIF surgery can be beneficial for certain conditions, but the risks should be considered before making a decision. It is important for individuals to speak to their doctor about any potential risks before committing to any surgical procedure. Moreover, while the procedure's success rate is generally high, individual cases may vary.

The procedure involves manipulating the vertebrae and a fusion of the vertebrae for stability and support. Physical therapy is often recommended after surgery to help patients regain their spinal strength and protect the fusion.

puneetha.o Author Name
Last updated: 16 Feb 2023

Puneetha Ongole is a creative content writer. Writing is her passion, and she never tires of inspiring and educating people.

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