Anterior lumbar interbody fusion

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is spine 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.

Patients who have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in the lumbar spine may be recommended to under an anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery to help treat the condition, if months of conservative therapies offer no pain relief. However, this is not the only type of surgery that can treat a lumbar spine condition. If you have been diagnosed with a lumbar spine condition and recommended surgery, ask your physician about the types of surgery available to you. You can also contact our Care Team for more information about the surgery options available to you so you can make the best decision about your treatment.

Purpose of anterior lumbar interbody fusion

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion 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 in other types of traditional open back fusion. However, anterior lumbar interbody fusion is still a highly invasive surgery and requires patients to stay in the hospital two or three days after the operation to be monitored for infection and excessive blood loss.

During this type of lumbar fusion, the surgeon will make a large incision across the abdomen, leaving the patient with a large scar and excessive scar tissue. Through this incision, the surgeon will access the spine and remove the diseased disc in the spine. This is called a discectomy. Once the disc is removed, spacers are inserted in the empty disc space to hold the place open for the implant to be inserted. A bone graft is then fused with a metal cage to the two vertebrae surrounding the empty disc space to stabilize the spine.

The recovery time for a traditional fusion takes about six months to a year, with some patients never fully returning to their daily activities.

Alternatives to anterior lumbar interbody fusion

At Laser Spine Institute, we believe patients deserve to have a safer and effective alternative to traditional fusion procedures. Our minimally invasive stabilization surgery has a lower risk and higher patient satisfaction score, as well as a shorter recovery time^ than traditional fusion. To date, Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain, and has earned a patient satisfaction score of 96.^

We have two minimally invasive stabilization surgeries that help treat lumbar spine conditions: transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion and lateral lumbar interbody fusion. Both of these procedures only require a small incision of about 1-inch in length to access the lumbar spine. Our advanced technology and surgical techniques allow our surgeons to perform spine surgery through this small incision without disrupting any surrounding muscles or soft tissue.

During the minimally invasive stabilization procedure, the surgeon will remove the entire diseased disc in order to free the impacted nerve in the spinal canal that is causing your pain. Once the disc is removed, the surgeon will insert an implant into the empty space to immediately stabilize the spine.

As you continue to research the surgical treatment options available to you, we encourage you to reach out to our Care Team for more information about our minimally invasive surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our commitment to medical advancement and patient-centered care has positioned Laser Spine Institute as the leader in minimally invasive surgery. Every year, more patients come to us for minimally invasive surgery than to any other surgery center in the world. We have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain, and we are confident that we can help treat your spine condition.