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The TLIF Procedure in Action — Out With the Old

  December 02, 2017
By Alexander Germanis

Humans are active beings. Every system of the body is meant for movement. So, when functions of the body begin to break down and one is forced to be sedentary, it is not only challenging to one’s patience, it can affect every other aspect of one’s health. Worse still, there is no set age at which something can or will go wrong.

Lisa, of Bloomington, had led a very active lifestyle. She hit the gym two or three times a week, ran 10 to 20 miles every week, plus she cycled another 20 to 30 miles. “I could do pretty much anything I wanted to do; I was very active,” she says. “But I hurt my back, and that all stopped.”

The back pain began two years ago, when Lisa was only 48 — an age at which she most certainly was not expecting to have back problems. “I thought I had pulled a muscle, but it kept getting worse and worse,” she recalls. “So, I got treated by an orthopedic doctor and a pain management doctor. We did nerve ablation; we did everything we could possibly do up to the point of surgery.”

Unfortunately, nothing seemed to relieve the pain, so surgery became the only viable option. Doctors implanted what is known as a coflex interlaminar stabilization device, meant to alleviate the pain stemming from spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis. “It’s a u-shaped spring that goes between the discs to help the pressure on the back,” Lisa explains.

Expecting a cessation of her pain, or at least a reduction, Lisa was shocked to find the pain actually increased. “It got ten times worse,” she says. Worse still, “it felt like something was wrong or like I could break something at any time.”

In order to deal with that increased pain, Lisa then underwent a series of injections. Unwilling to let the pain keep her down, she attempted a return to a previous level of activity, figuring her back was going to hurt anyway whether she was immobile or not.

For nearly two years, Lisa dealt with her new state of life until someone recommended Dr. Nitin Kukkar of Orthopedic Sports Enhancement Center. Skilled in a technique called transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), seeing Dr. Kukkar was certainly a logical step.

TLIF is a technique by which two vertebrae are fused together using surgical hardware and bone grafting. Minimally invasive, it is performed through small incisions in the back, allowing for much shorter recovery time and fewer post-operative complications.

“I also wanted to find out about removing the coflex device, because I felt it is what was causing the problem,” Lisa continues.

After meeting with her, Dr. Kukkar suggested the TLIF procedure. “But he was totally frank,” she remembers. “He said, ‘If you want a second opinion, I suggest you do that.’ He was very open and laid it all out.”

After careful consideration, Lisa agreed to have the TLIF procedure. She said, “it took about three weeks for insurance to authorize it,” and with that and a physical from her primary doctor she was cleared for surgery.

During surgery, the doctor discovered the coflex implant was a little loose and covered with scar tissue and the joining vertebra were becoming arthritic. It was clearly the reason for Lisa’s continuous pain. The course of action was clear: remove the coflex and proceed with the TLIF.

Several months later, Lisa is still recovering but unabashedly proclaims: “Even though I’m still in some pain, it’s a huge improvement from before. I would do the TLIF procedure again in a heartbeat.”

To learn about Lisa’s recovery and whether or not the TLIF procedure might be the right course of action for you, read “The TLIF Procedure in Action, Part 2” in next month’s Healthy Cells Magazine.

You may contact Dr. Kukkar at the Orthopedic & Sports Enhancement Center, 309-663-9300 or online at His office is located at 2406 E. Empire St. in Bloomington. The practice offers the most advanced treatments that minimize pain and speed recovery for people of all ages. Back to Top

December 02, 2017
Categories:  Orthopedic Health


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