Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF)

Patients who are dealing with chronic lower back (lumbar) pain due to a number of different conditions may be recommended for a posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF). Before undergoing an invasive and possibly complicated procedure such as a PLIF, it is important to be educated on the definitions, risks and alternatives of this procedure.

PLIF is a spine fusion technique where the bone at the top of the vertebra that surrounds around the spinal cord, known as the lamina, and the damaged disc between the vertebrae are removed and replaced with a bone graft and metal hardware. The purpose of this surgery is to eliminate the pain associated with bulging disc or herniated discs and instability of the spine. However, traditional open back surgery is often highly invasive, and accompanied by great risk and recovery time.

Definition of posterior lumbar interbody fusion

The term posterior lumbar interbody fusion includes many important details about the surgery itself:

  • Posterior — This term indicates that the procedure will be approached from the back side of the patient.
  • Lumbar — This term refers to the region of the back where the operation will take place. The lumbar spine is the lower back.
  • Interbody — This term means that the graft will be placed between two vertebrae.
  • Fusion — This term indicates that the procedure will involve the connecting of two or more areas of the spine in order to limit mobility and increase stability.

Risks of PLIF

Posterior lumbar interbody fusion is a serious and invasive procedure. Most surgeons will only recommend this procedure when all alternative treatment have been exhausted.

We understand that choosing to undergo a procedure such as this is often associated with much thought and consideration, which is why we recommend researching all existing options and alternatives before agreeing to a procedure. Traditional open back procedures often result in loss of flexibility or the transfer of pain to another part of the spine. This type of spinal fusion is also accompanied by a long recovery time, as well as a greater risk of infection and complication.

Minimally invasive approach

Though traditional open back fusions were once the only viable option for patients needing stabilization, Laser Spine Institute now offers minimally invasive stabilization (MIS) procedures as an effective alternative to open fusions. These outpatient procedures accomplish the same goals as traditional spinal fusions (such as a PLIF), but with numerous advantages, such as small incisions, muscle-sparing techniques, lower risks of infection and complication, and a shorter recovery time.§ To learn more about a minimally invasive alternative to posterior lateral interbody fusion, contact Laser Spine Institute today. As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, we offer multiple procedures to treat a wide range of neck and back conditions.