Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

ALIF Performed at ONE Brain and Spine Center of Southern California

Spinal fusion is a procedure that essentially “welds” two vertebrae of the spine together to create one solid bone and relieve chronic pain. The anterior approach for the lumbar fusion is through the front of the body – the abdomen – and is considered to be far more ideal than the traditional posterior approach, or through the back. Not only does the anterior approach allow the surgeon to do a more thorough job at removing any damaged intravertebral disc material, it also means the surgeon does not have to damage the muscles of the back, which significantly reduces pain and recovery time for the patient.
The intervertebral discs are located between the vertebrae of the spine, and are made of a hard outer layer and a softer, jelly-like inner layer. These discs act as cushions and shock absorbers as the spine moves. Age, trauma, injury, or a condition like degenerative disc disease can cause the vertebrae to press down on the discs, which in turn causes them to bulge outward, or herniate, which is where the inner layer begins to leak through the outer layer. A bulge or herniation can compress or irritate the nerves of the spine, causing pain in the back, neck, legs, arms and hands.
Patients who have advanced degenerative disc disease or who have failed other conservative treatment options are generally good candidates for lumbar fusion, and anterior lumbar interbody fusion is the recommended gold standard when it comes to minimally invasive spine surgery.
For the best possible chances at a successful spinal fusion, an interbody fusion will be performed. The interbody fusion involves the removal of the damaged disc and replacing it with a spacer. This spacer may be a bone graft taken from the patient’s hip, a donor (cadaver) bone, or a medical grade metal device. Yet another advantage to the anterior approach is that the graft will be placed while in compression between the vertebrae as opposed to under tension, as is done with the posterior approach. Placing the graft while in compression raises the likelihood of a successful fusion.
Anterior lumbar interbody fusion is performed under general anesthesia, while the patient is lying on their back. An approach surgeon (usually a vascular surgeon) will perform the approach through the retroperitoneal space. The spine surgeon will then perform the spinal portion of the procedure, beginning with the removal of the damaged disc and any fragments that may be compressing or irritating the nerves of the spine. The disc space will then be resorted to the appropriate height, and the graft will then be placed.
Following surgery, the patient will be instructed on any limitations required for optimal healing. Physical therapy and rehabilitation may be recommended post-operatively by the surgeon as well.
If you live in Irvine or a surrounding California area and believe you are a candidate for this procedure, call and schedule an appointment at ONE® Brain and Spine Center® today!
Key Terms:
Anterior: situated at, positioned toward, or directed at the front
Interbody Fusion: removal of the intervertebral disc and replacement with a spacer implanted in its place
Lumbar: the lower portion of the spine, the low back
ONE® Brain & Spine Center® in Southern California is the leader in innovative and comprehensive treatment and specializes in anterior lumbar interbody fusion. Call (949) 383-4190 or Contact Us for appointment.