What is an 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 referred to as “anterior” because the surgeon accesses the spine through the front of the torso and “interbody” is used to describe the bone graft 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 undergo an anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery to help treat the condition if several weeks or 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 are recommended for surgery, ask your doctor about the types of procedures available to you. You can also contact the dedicated team at Laser Spine Institute for more information about your surgery options 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 for two to five days after the operation to be monitored for infection and excessive blood loss.

During this type of lumbar fusion, the surgeon will make a 6- to 8-inch incision across the abdomen, leaving the patient with a large scar and excessive scar tissue. Through this large incision, the surgeon will access the spine and remove the diseased disc. This is referred to as a traditional open spine 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 of complication and a shorter recovery period^ compared to traditional fusion. Since 2005, Laser Spine Institute has performed more than 100,000 patient procedures, and has earned a patient satisfaction score of 98.^

Our commitment to patient-centered care has positioned Laser Spine Institute as the leader in minimally invasive surgery. We have two minimally invasive stabilization surgeries that help treat lumbar spine conditions: transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion and lateral lumbar interbody fusion. Both procedures only require a small incision to access the lumbar spine. Our minimally invasive techniques allow our board-certified+ surgeons to perform spine surgery 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 Laser Spine Institute. Ask for a free MRI review* today to learn if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient procedures. We are confident that we can help you on your journey to wellness.