An anterior/posterior fusion is a traditional open spinal surgery involving the fusion of the front (anterior) and back (posterior) of two or more vertebrae in the spine. The purpose of the procedure, also known as a 360 degree fusion, is to stop the pain-inducing motion of zygapophysial joints (facet joints) of the spine caused by degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, fractures or spinal deformity. This fusion is typically performed in the lumbar region, or lower back.
The procedure fuses together unstable vertebrae by securing bone grafts and other stabilizing hardware (such as a titanium cage) inserted into the intervertebral disc cavity and secured with plates, screws and/or rods.
Steps of surgery
Anterior/posterior fusion is actually a combination of two open spine surgeries, often used on their own to treat different occurrences of neck and back pain. Performing both procedures in certain situations may provide a higher level of stability than one or the other separately.
The anterior/posterior fusion begins with an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF). With the patient on his or her back, a large incision is made in the lower abdominal region. The muscles and internal organs are moved aside. The surgeon then has access to the anterior (front) portion of the lumbar vertebrae. The intervertebral disc material is removed from the front half of the disc, and a titanium cage may be inserted to support the vertebrae. Bone grafts are then attached to the cage. The patient is closed up, bandaged and turned over to complete the final stage of the surgery, a procedure called posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF). A large incision is made in the lower back. Access to the vertebrae is not as easy as the ALIF, as the back muscles and posterior vertebral segments block access to the disc and may be removed. The remaining disc material can be cleaned out, and another cage and bone graft can be inserted.
There is a long recovery time required after an anterior/posterior fusion, and sometimes the surgery has to be repeated. Stiffness and reduced mobility may be possible, but the potential reduction of pain may outweigh the other symptoms.
An alternative to open back surgery
Traditional open back surgeries such as an anterior/posterior fusion can be complex and risky, and may require an extensive period of recovery. The minimally invasive procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute are a more effective alternative to open back surgery. We use state-of-the-art, minimally invasive techniques to perform our procedures, which have helped tens of thousands of people find relief from neck and back pain. Contact us today to see if these procedures are right for you.