Interlaminar Lumbar Instrumented Fusion

What is Interlaminar lumbar instrumented fusion, and how does it work?

Are you dealing with lower back pain that won’t go away? You may have heard of lumbar fusion as a treatment option. Interlaminar lumbar instrumented fusion is an advanced technique used to treat chronic lower back pain, providing patients with the relief they need.

Through this procedure, your surgeon will secure two vertebrae together using hardware, such as screws and rods, for optimal stability in the spine. This article will teach you more about interlaminar lumbar instrumented fusion and its potential advantages.

At OrthoNeuro, our orthopedic specialists can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that affect the spine. Contact us today to book an appointment. We have multiple locations throughout Columbus, Ohio.

What Is Interlaminar Lumbar Instrumented Fusion?

Interlaminar lumbar instrumented fusion (ILIF) is a type of minimally invasive spine surgery used to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. It is used to treat conditions such as degenerative arthritis (wear and tear of intervertebral discs) and spondylolisthesis (slipping of a vertebra).

There are 5 vertebral bones that make up the lumbar spine. They surround and protect the central spinal cord in your lower back region. The lamina is a part of the vertebra that protects the back of the spinal cord. Each vertebra also has a bony projection that can be felt as you run your hand down your spine, called a spinous process.

Degeneration (wear and tear), trauma, disease, or deformity of the lumbar spine can compress the spinal cord or nerves that branch out through the vertebrae (spinal stenosis). This can cause lower back pain, as well as pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs.

The surgeon will use instruments such as screws, rods, and plates to hold the bone together. These instruments will hold the spinous processes in place while fusion occurs. This will prevent the nerves from being compressed during movements.

Common surgical procedures that involve spinal fusion and instrumentation include the following:

  • Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)
  • Direct lateral interbody fusion (DLIF)
  • Extreme lateral lumbar interbody fusion (XLIF)
  • Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF)
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF)
  • Anterior cervical discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

When Is the Procedure Performed?

There may be a few situations that may warrant an instrumented spinal fusion. They include the following:

  • Mechanical pain: If there is pain in your spine because of movement, fusing the spine may stop the pain. This would not likely be the first option to treat the pain, though. Non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy, would be tried first to strengthen the lower back and abdominal wall.
  • Conditions that may affect spinal stability: Spinal stability may be compromised because of degenerative conditions like spondylolisthesis, spinal deformities like scoliosis, or trauma. A metal implant that encourages spinal fusion may stabilize the spine.
  • Surgical procedures that may affect spinal stability: You may need a spinal fusion after surgery to treat trauma, tumors, malformations, or degenerative conditions to restore spinal stability.

What Is the Difference Between Spinal Fusion and Instrumentation?

The use of instrumentation in spinal fusion compared to normal spinal fusion has its benefits and drawbacks. These may include the following:

The benefits of instrumented spinal fusion may include:

  • Spinal stability is achieved right away
  • Bone fusion is more efficient
  • Spinal deformity is corrected.
  • Further deformity is less likely to occur

Potential risks of instrumented spinal fusion include:

  • Higher chance of infection or other complications
  • The rigidity may create additional mechanical problems down the line
  • Longer operating time
  • Greater soft tissue disruption possibly causing more post-operative pain

How Interlaminar Lumbar Instrumented Fusion is Done

ILIF is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed under general anesthetic. Spine surgeons generally follow the following steps:

  1. Your surgeon makes an incision in the areas of the vertebra that need to be fused.
  2. Some of the spinous processes and lamina between them are removed to decompress the spinal cord or nerve.
  3. A bone graft is placed between two spinous processes to protect the decompressed nerves and encourage fusion between the vertebral bones.
  4. A metal implant is secured over the spinous processes to provide stability while fusion occurs.
  5. The incision is then closed with sutures and then bandaged.

What to Expect After the Procedure

After the procedure, you will either be allowed to go home on the same day or stay overnight for observation. You may be helped to reduce the possibility of failed fusion. Things like smoking, chronic steroid use, and poorly controlled diabetes can reduce the body’s immune or anti-inflammatory response.

You will also be required to take X-rays or CT scans to check on the progress of the bone fusion.

Outlook for ILIF Patients

It is reported that over 90 percent of ILIF patients achieve a solid fusion and will significantly benefit from the surgery.

Book an Appointment with a Spinal Specialist Today

If you would like to speak to an orthopedic surgeon about any spinal issues, book an appointment at OrthoNeuro today. Our spinal specialists in Columbus, OH are ready to help. Contact our team of experts today!

Medically reviewed by Larry T. Todd, D.O.

Spine Care Specialists


“I recently had surgery on my lower back. I had heard that such surgery would result in pain and cause me difficulties in doing ordinary daily tasks but, I experienced no pain and was able to do normal activities at home and at church. Also, being a bee keeper, I was able to work the hives and extract the honey from most of the hives”

James B.