Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
What is an Anterior Lumbar Interbody fusion (ALIF)
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion or ALIF is a minimally invasive spine fusion procedure where the spine is accessed through the abdomen. The anterior approach to the spine can often be performed with smaller incisions. Surgeons access the anterior lumbar spine by separating muscles in their normal plane which are then put back in place at the conclusion of the surgery. Conversely, a posterior approach to the spine involves cutting through muscle and bone to access the spine.
A general or vascular surgeon who is well versed in abdominal surgery provides safe access to the anterior lumbar spine during an ALIF procedure. The approach is performed in a retroperitoneal fashion meaning we are coming around the important abdominal structures thus not interfering with them at all. Your films are studied prior to surgery to determine if this approach can be performed safely with limited risk. When the spine procedure is finished, muscle layers are put back together and function as if surgery never happened.
What are the benefits of an ALIF
The anterior approach gives surgeons much better access to the disc space. We are able to place a bigger implant which allows restoration of height that may have been lost with disc degeneration. By restoring normal disc height with the implant we are able to take pressure off of the nerves indirectly. Indirect decompression allows us to treat nerve pain without disrupting the muscle, and bone from a posterior approach. We can also correct deformities and more easily put your spine in better alignment using the ALIF procedure. This will protect your spine for years to come.
Who is a candidate for an ALIF
Candidates for Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion surgery are typically patients with degenerative disc disease or progressive arthritis of the spine who have back and/or leg pain. Specific etiologies include patients with severe degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, instability (inappropriate movement of the spine producing pain) , fractures, scoliosis, severe facet joint disease, and post laminectomy syndrome are usually good ALIF candidates. Most likely they have participated in conservative, non-surgical treatments but have not seen significant long term relief. Good bone quality is also a prerequisite for lumbar disc replacement. Special consideration is needed if patients have had prior abdominal surgery or radiation to the abdomen or pelvis. We would be happy to discuss your circumstances at a consultation.
In summary, Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) is a minimally invasive, powerful spine fusion procedure used to treat many conditions that are refractory to conservative non-surgical treatments. I’m proud to offer this treatment for the right patients in my practice. If you would like more information or feel like you have tried many non-surgical options and are still having pain, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment. I’d be happy to discuss your symptoms and see if ALIF is the right procedure for you.