Direct Lateral Interbody Fusion (DLIF) is a minimally invasive technique used for spinal fusion.  In DLIF surgery, the access to the spine is done through the patient’s flank.   Surgical instruments are passed through small incisions on the side of the body.  The peritoneum (internal sack that contains abdominal organs) is retracted and the fusion surgery proceeds with removal of the damaged disc and bone grafts.  DLIF is not suitable for certain fusions in the lower spine as it does not allow surgeons adequate access to the lower vertebrae.

Patients who have DLIF surgery potentially experience a shorter hospital stay.  DLIF offers a lower risk of injury to the blood vessels, bowel and ureter because the procedure skirts the peritoneum.

Patients who have DLIF are at risk for damage to the lumbar plexus, a complex set of nerves in the lower back.  Injury to the lumbar plexus can cause weakness and/or paralysis of the lower extremities.  There is also significant risk of damage to the psoas muscle which can weaken hip flexion.

All surgical procedures come with risks.   Spinal access surgeries have unique risks that patients should review and consider thoroughly.  Risks of DLIF surgery include:

  • Damage to lumbar plexus causing weakness and/or paralysis of lower extremities
  • Injury to psoas muscle and accompanying weakened hip flexion
  • Blood clots
  • Retrograde ejaculation in men
  • Hernia
  • Fluid collections
  • Injury to other nerves causing motor or sensory deficits

For more information, please see Risks of Spinal Access Surgery.  You may also call our office with questions or to arrange a consultation with one of our surgeons.