Extraforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion at the L5-S1 Level: Technical Considerations and Feasibility

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Extraforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (ELIF) surgery is a muscle-sparing approach that allows the treatment of various degenerative spinal diseases. It is technical challenging to perform the ELIF approach at the L5-S1 level because the sacral ala obstructs the view of the intervertebral disk space.


We reported earlier on the ELIF technique in which the intervertebral disk is targeted at an angle of 45 degrees relative to the midline. In this article we describe the technical process we developed to overcome the anatomic relation between the sacral ala and the intervertebral disk space L5-S1 that hinders the ELIF approach at this level. We then report in a retrospective analysis on the short-term clinical and radiologic outcome of 100 consecutive patients with degenerative L5-S1 pathologies who underwent ELIF surgery.


The L5-S1 ELIF approach could be realized in all patients. The short-term clinical outcome was evaluated 5 months after surgery: 92% of the patients were satisfied with their postoperative result; 8% had a poor result. Overall, 17% of the patients presented light radicular or low back pain not influencing their daily activity, and 82% of the patients working before surgery returned to work 3 to 7 months after surgery. The radiologic outcome was documented by computed tomography at 5 months after surgery and showed fusion in 99% of the patients. Lumbar magnetic resonance imaging performed in 5 patients at 6 months after surgery revealed the integrity of the paraspinal muscles.


ELIF surgery at the L5-S1 level is technically feasible for various degenerative spinal diseases. Analysis of the clinical and radiologic data in a consecutive retrospective cohort of patients who underwent this surgical procedure showed a good short-term clinical outcome and fusion rate.

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