ALIF: ANTERIOR LUMBAR INTERBODY FUSION
WHAT IS AN ANTERIOR LUMBAR INTERBODY FUSION?
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or ALIF, is a spine surgery in which the surgeon will approach the spine from the front side of the body (anterior) in order to remove all or part of a herniated disc. The herniated disc is in between two adjacent vertebrae (interbody) and located in the lower portion of the spine (lumbar). The surgeon will fuse the vertebrae on above and below the remaining disc space using either bone graft or a bone graft substitute.
The purpose of the graft material is to act as a binding medium and maintain a normal disc height. As the body begins to heal, the bone graft will grow with the vertebrae which in turn will stabilize the spine. An internal cast may also be utilized and made up of rods, screws, plates, cages, hooks and wires. This is to support the vertebral structure during healing.
WHY DID MY SURGEON RECOMMEND AN ANTERIOR LUMBAR INTERBODY FUSION?
Spine surgery is an extremely complex subspecialty in orthopedic surgery. Please do your research before selecting a physician. At AOA Orthopedic Specialists, we have two highly respected spinal surgeons. Your surgeon may recommend an ALIF if you have any of the following ailments:
- Protruding or degenerated discs
- Spondylolisthesis – the sliding of a vertebrae due to the supporting structures having been broken away.
- One or multiple fractured vertebrae
- Scoliosis or Kyphosis – the bending of the spine away from its natural curve either in the opposite direction or sideways. The fusing of levels with large amounts of bend can account for the structural deformity by sacrificing a small amount of flexibility to correct the curve. This would be considered if the curve is causing painful side effects that would make the trade off worth it.
- Instability of the spine
WHAT IS THE RECOVERY FROM AN ANTERIOR LUMBAR INTERBODY FUSION?
Depending on the patient and entirety of the procedure, recovery time will vary. One advantage of an ALIF procedure is that the back muscles and nerves are undisturbed. Patients can typically expect to stay in the hospital for a few days. Following discharge, the patient will be required to participate in rehabilitation.