Beaumont offers minimally invasive back surgery


Theresa Moreland of Novi remembers having problems standing for longer than ten minutes. She fatigued easily. Then one morning after several attempts, she could barely get out of bed.

"It was scary," explains Moreland, 77, "My legs felt frozen."

After a visit to her doctor, Fernando Diaz, M.D., Ph.D., she was diagnosed with a low back problem known as degenerative disc disease. Dr. Diaz recommended back surgery. Given her age and condition, she was an ideal candidate for a new minimally invasive spine surgery.

For those requiring back surgery, the road to recovery can be a lengthy process. The new minimally invasive technique recommended for Theresa, dramatically lessens the recovery time, while also reducing pain and scarring.

The surgery is called an XLIF or extreme lateral interbody fusion. It's a new approach to spinal fusion.

"Compared to traditional back surgery, this minimally invasive technique has many benefits for the patient and the surgeon," explains Dr. Diaz, chief, Neurological Surgery at Beaumont, Royal Oak. "Because the patient is positioned on their side, there is minimal nerve interference and less tissue disruption allowing for a rapid recovery. We're not talking in terms of months, but weeks."

Surgery is performed through two very small incisions in the waist, usually about 1.5" long. Blood loss is minimal. The new technology gives the surgeon greater access to the spine and better visualization. The disc is removed and a spacer is inserted to restore disc height and alignment.

Dr. Diaz performed Theresa's minimally invasive back surgery on a Wednesday and she was home from the hospital by Friday. In fact, she was up and walking within 48 hours following her surgery. After six weeks, she was back behind the wheel of her car.

"It's like a miracle. My back doesn't bother me anymore," says Theresa. "My fatigue and feelings of weakness are gone."

The XLIF procedure can be beneficial to people with the following back problems:

  • Degenerative disc disease with instability
  • Recurrent disc herniation
  • Problems related to previous fusion or nonfusion surgeries
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis (slip of one vertebra forward over another)
  • Degenerative scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
  • A long history of back/leg pain and failed treatments- steroid injections, physical therapy, pain medication

XLIF was originally developed in Brazil.

Minimally invasive back surgery is also performed by some members of Beaumont's orthopedic spine surgical staff.