Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF)

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What is an Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF)?

The lower portion of the spine consists of five vertebral bones which are separated and cushioned by spongy discs. Doctors refer to this area of the back as the “lumbar region” of the spine. An Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF), therefore, involves repairing the lumbar spine from the front and side (that is, from an oblique approach).

Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments in the Western world. In fact, as many as 80% of all people will suffer from lumbar back pain at some point during their lifetimes. A good portion of these people will be able to achieve relief using more conservative methods, such as prescription medication or exercise. A small minority, however, will require something a little more invasive like orthopedic surgery.

Thankfully, the surgeries of today are not as invasive as they used to be. In fact, the orthopedic surgery community has made great strides in the field of minimally invasive surgical procedures. An OLIF is one of these many distinguished techniques. The goal of this procedure is to treat lumbar degeneration by removing damaged vertebrae and allowing healthy bones to successfully fuse together. Furthermore, an OLIF has a wide range of applications, making it a versatile and safe procedure for numerous cases.

Can a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) help me?

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What are the Benefits of an Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF)?

An OLIF boasts the same advantages as most other minimally invasive procedures. Listed below are the primary advantages of minimally invasive techniques over traditional, open-back surgeries:

  • Smaller Incisions: Smaller incisions mean a variety of good things for the patient. For one, there is less trauma inflicted on adjacent tissues and structures. This means a faster recovery time as well as minimal scarring. There is also less risk of certain complications, such as excessive bleeding.
  • Less Pain: Obviously, this is a great thing in and of itself, but there are still some hidden advantages here. Less pain also means less reliance on necessary evils such as addictive narcotics. If you have a propensity for addiction, minimally invasive surgery may be one of your best options.
  • Shorter Hospital Times: Since smaller incisions also result in less trauma, you can expect a faster recovery time. This means less post-surgical time spent recovering in a hospital bed. In fact, doctors can even perform some minimally invasive procedures on an outpatient basis allowing for a same-day discharge. 
  • Less Impact on the Immune System: Traditional open-back surgeries do a number on your immune system. This is why infections are such a pervasive, omnipresent risk when it comes to surgical procedures. Since minimally invasive surgeries result in less trauma to the body, your immune system can breathe a sigh of relief. 

Of course, these are just a few obvious examples. Your doctor will be able to give you more information when it comes to how an OLIF benefits you and your case. Make sure you communicate with your doctor as much as possible. You can’t have enough information when it comes to your body.

How do I know if I need a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)?

Request a free MRI review & our world-renowned orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Frazier, will evaluate your treatment needs.

Do I Qualify for an Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion (OLIF)?

An OLIF is an extremely versatile surgical procedure. Your doctor can employ it to address a variety of spinal problems, including: 

  • Abnormal Spinal Curvature:The spine may abnormally curve in a variety of directions. If the lumbar spine curves too far inward, then doctors call this lordosis. In contrast, scoliosis involves an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine when viewing the back from the posterior position. Your doctor can use an OLIF (where indicated) to correct both of these forms of spinal deformity.
  • Fractured Vertebra:The bones of the spine are under constant stress—as most bones are. As such, certain hobbies or occupations may lead to microfractures. 
  • Bulging Discs: The discs of the spine rest between vertebrae and serve as cushions to soften movement. These elements are composed of a hard outer shell surrounding a softer, central core. Stress from wear-and-tear may lead to dehydrated discs and stiff cartilage. The outer layer may then bulge outward, applying pressure to nearby tissues and structures.
  • Spinal Instability: As time passes, the discs and bones of the spine degenerate. When this happens, the structural integrity of the spine is affected, leading to overall instability and discomfort.
  • Lumbar Spondylolisthesis: This is a degenerative spine condition in which a slipped vertebrae creates spinal instability, often generating stress on nearby soft tissues such as nerves.

Of course, these are just a few examples. To determine if an OLIF procedure is right for you, ask your doctor for more details. 

OLIF Complications & Risk Factors

Since an OLIF is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, the associated risk factors are much less of a concern than they would be with traditional open back surgery. That being said, surgery is still surgery, minimally invasive or not. Naturally, any type of surgical procedure comes with its own inherent risks. Even with minimally invasive surgeries such as an OLIF, you should look out for:

  • Infection: With any surgery, there is always the risk of infection. Thankfully, advancements in modern medicine have greatly reduced this risk, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t occur. To avoid taking unnecessary risks, thoroughly vet your surgeon beforehand, ensuring that he or she has earned board certification and does not have any history of malpractice. 
  • Excessive Bleeding: Obviously, people with pre-existing medical conditions such as anemia will be more concerned about this risk. That being said, minimally invasive surgeries typically use smaller incisions, greatly reducing bleeding.
  • General Anesthesia: General anesthesia complications are exceedingly rare. However, adverse side effects of anesthesia could include nausea, vomiting, incontinence, sore throat, and dizziness. 

Contact Us

Are you having lower back problems that aren’t going away on their own within a period of two weeks? If so, then please contact our office at (855) 210-0899. 

Dr. Daveed Frazier of New York City Spine is board-certified, fellowship-trained spine surgeon with over 20 years of experience. Dr. Frazier earned his MD at Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. Currently, Dr. Frazier serves as the Director of New York City Spine Surgery, where he specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery techniques, such as OLIF. 

For world-class surgical intervention from a Harvard-trained spine surgeon, contact NYC Spine today!

Am I a candidate for a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)?

Determine your eligibility for conservative & minimally invasive treatments.

Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.

After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Education & Training

  • MD / cum Laude, Boston MA

    Harvard Medical School

  • Residency, Boston MA

    Harvard Combined Orthopedic Residency

  • Chief Residency, Boston MA

    Harvard Mass. General Hospital

  • Spinal Deformity Fellowship, Miami FL

    Doctor's Hospital, Shufflebarger Fellowship

  • Academic Appointments, NY, NY

    Columbia University; SUNY Downstate

  • Consultant, Lecturer

    Nuvasive, Depuy & Stryker International Spine Cos.