Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

If you have been diagnosed with chronic lower back pain and conservative treatments have not proven effective, anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) may be recommended. This procedure is used as a treatment option for many spinal conditions, including degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, and spondylolisthesis. Like other forms of spinal fusion, anterior lumbar interbody fusion is designed to stabilize the spine and reduce lower back pain.

What is an ALIF?

During an anterior lumbar interbody fusion procedure, the patient is placed on his or her back and the surgeon approaches the surgery through a 3- to 5-inch incision in the patient’s abdomen. After creating space to access the spine, the surgeon will then remove the degenerative disc and bone material, creating space for a box or cage to be inserted around the vertebrae. Once the disc has been removed, the surgeon will insert rods and screws to hold the vertebrae in place. Surgeons may then also insert a bone graft to promote fusion between the two vertebrae.

Is anterior lumbar interbody fusion right for me?

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion is often an effective treatment for lumbar pain. However, it does have its limitations in creating stability and risk of certain complication. Before electing to undergo any surgery, patients should exhaust all other conservative options, as well as conduct research surrounding the full range of surgical procedures. Many people with spondylolisthesis or spondylosis may not require surgery and can often ease the symptoms of these conditions through nonsurgical methods such as medication, physical therapy, therapeutic massage, diet, exercise and stretching.

Minimally invasive alternatives

Though anterior lumbar interbody fusion does not disturb the back muscles, it is subject to many of the same problems with traditional open back procedures, such as risk of infection and complication and a long rehabilitation, because of its large incision and bulky hardware.

Austin Midtown Ambulatory Spinal Center offers an outpatient alternative to traditional open back fusions like anterior lumbar interbody fusion through our minimally invasive stabilization procedures. Unlike an anterior lumbar interbody fusion that cuts through the muscles and soft tissue surrounding the spine, our minimally invasive surgeries access the spine with a small incision and muscle-sparing techniques.

For example, we perform a minimally invasive stabilization procedure called a lateral lumbar interbody fusion. This procedure avoids the disrupting or stripping of the soft tissue and muscle that is required during other spine fusion procedures by utilizing a small incision on the side of the body. A lateral lumbar interbody fusion can offer the same stability as an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, but with the benefit of an outpatient procedure. Contact Austin Midtown Ambulatory Spinal Center today to learn more about the advantages of our minimally invasive surgery.