Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a surgery performed to correct the spinal problems in the lower back. The surgery can be implemented either as an open surgery or minimally invasive technique.
The common indications of ALIF are:
- Severe lumbar (low back) or leg pain that is unresponsive to non-surgical treatment.
- Degenerative disc disorder of lumbar spine (pain due to damaged disc)
- Spondylolisthesis (slippage of one vertebra on another)
- Scoliosis (S-shaped curve of spine)
- Fractures of spine
- Spinal instability
The ALIF surgery is usually performed under general anesthesia. The patient is positioned supine lying on the back. The surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen and retracts the muscles and various structures to enhance the clarity and accessibility to the anterior aspect of the vertebrae. The surgical approach is from the front of the vertebral body in the low back region. Your surgeon removes whole or a part of the damaged disc between two adjacent vertebrae followed by fusion of the same with or without the use of bone grafts. External implant materials such as rods, screws, plates, and wires may be fixed to the treated vertebrae to deliver extra support and stability during the healing process. At the end of the procedure, the structures are re-approximated and the skin is closed with sutures.
The success of surgery depends on various factors such as age, spinal condition, overall health status, and activity level of the individual.
The recovery period after ALIF surgery depends on the body’s healing capacity. The post-surgical hospitalization includes the rehabilitation program. If required your surgeon may prescribe pain medications or a brace and follow-up physical therapy upon discharge.
The period of your rest or inactivity depends on a few factors such as the type of surgical procedure and the approach used to access your spine, the size of the incision and presence of any complications. Return to work or normal activity depends on the type of work or activity you plan to perform. Usually 3 to 6 weeks is the ideal time of healing. With the advanced and innovative techniques, it is now possible to achieve improved fusion rates, short hospital stay with an active and rapid recovery period.
Strictly adhere to the post-operative instructions suggested by your spine surgeon to promote healing and reduce the possibility of post-operative complications.
Risks or Complications
The complications of the ALIF surgery include infection, nerve damage, blood clots or blood loss or bowel and bladder problem and any problem associated with anesthesia. The underlying risk of spinal fusion surgery is failure of fusion of vertebral bone and bone graft which usually requires an additional surgery.
Talk to your spine surgeon if you have any concerns or queries regarding ALIF.