Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is major surgery used to treat the symptoms of compressed nerve roots in the lower (lumbar) back, often in cases of degenerative disc disease. It is termed “anterior” because the surgeon accesses the spine through the front of the torso. It is termed “interbody” because the bone graft is implanted within the interior of the vertebra, rather than the exterior.
ALIF is considered a less-invasive procedure than other forms of spinal fusion because it leaves intact the back muscles and nerves that otherwise would be cut or even removed. Still, anterior lumbar interbody fusion requires hospitalization, has a long recuperation period, and carries the same risks of infection, bleeding, and other potential complications of other types of major open back surgery.
If you undergo this type of lumbar fusion, here’s what you can expect:
- A 3- to 5-inch incision is made through the abdomen, either through the center or slightly to one side
- The damaged intervertebral disc is partially removed (known as a discectomy) and temporary spacers are inserted, thereby relieving the irritated or impinged nerve root
- A metal cage implant containing a bone graft is inserted in the vacated disc space between the vertebrae
- In some patients, metal rods are implanted with screws in the rear of the vertebrae to ensure stability
- In time, the bone graft grows through and around the metal cage and forms a bridge, or fusion, between the vertebrae
Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers a gentle, endoscopic alternative to highly invasive procedures such as anterior lumbar interbody fusion. The award-winning surgeons at LSI perform minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that have a far shorter recovery period and greater rate of success than ALIF. Contact LSI for a free review of your MRI or CT scan and to learn how to rediscover a life without pain.