What is Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?

Dr. Braxton performs anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) for patients suffering from degenerative spinal disease. This surgery is used to relieve neck, back, and leg pain. It can be performed as an open surgery or with minimally invasive techniques depending on Dr. Braxton’s patient evaluation and recommendation. The procedure is conducted through the front, or anterior, of the patient’s body and treats the affected levels of the lumbar spine, L1 to L5. The disc between the vertebrae, or interbody, is also treated and/or replaced in the surgery. Finally, the vertebrae are treated with a bone fusion repair process.

What Does ALIF Treat?

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) surgery is used to treat conditions of the lumbar spine that commonly cause instability, degeneration, leg pain and/or back pain. These conditions include:

  • Degenerative disc disease affecting spinal nerve root
  • Spondylolisthesis resulting in spinal nerve compression

The anterior lumbar interbody fusion is designed to relieve pressure on the spinal nerve affected by degeneration. The decompression portion of the surgery results in the removal of degenerated bone, ligament and joints and the creation of open space around the impacted spinal nerve root. The procedure also mitigates spinal instability created by disc slippage and degeneration that can occur with spondylolisthesis. Stability is achieved by correcting the damage from disc slippage and inserting bone graft material into the open spaces to initiate the fusion process between vertebrae. Following the procedure, patients experience a reduction in back and leg pain and an increase in spinal stability.

How is Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) Performed?

Dr. Braxton performs the anterior lumbar interbody fusion with the patient under general anesthesia. The surgery takes between 2 and 3 hours. The surgical incision is made on the front of the body. The length of the incision is dependent on the number of spinal levels being repaired and if the procedure is open or minimally invasive. Following access to the affected spinal area, the intervertebral discectomy is performed which involves removing the disc and opening up of any degenerative materials.

Once readied, an implant device will be placed in the disc space between adjacent vertebrae. The selected bone graft material will be packed into the disc space around the implant device creating a cage of solid bone to help promote healing and the fusion process. Resulting post-surgical stability may also be enhanced by the addition of instrumentation, or plates and screws, to further secure the bony cage in place during the healing. The surgery is completed and the patient begins post-operative recovery.

What are the Advantages of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Dr. Braxton recommends the anterior lumbar interbody fusion to eligible patients for several common purposes and advantages. These include:

  • Prior lumbar surgeries using a posterior approach
  • Direct access to the intervertebral disc
  • Lumbar curvature (lordosis) improvement
  • Quicker recovery time

With the anterior approach, the spine can be accessed without moving the nerves minimizing potential complications to the nerve. The disc replacement portion of the process provides the patient with improved, normalized disc function and restoration of disc height to help support the overall spine. The fusion portion of the procedure provides the patient with improved stability of the lumbar spine.

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What is Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Recovery?

After an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), patients will typically have a hospital stay of 1 to 3 days. Patients begin to stand and walk within the first day after surgery; pain management is maintained. Movement is gradual and limited to ensure the patient avoids twisting, bending and lifting heavy objects. A majority of patients benefit from an anterior lumbar interbody fusion with a decrease in lower back pain and an increase in function and movement. Up to 90% of patients with degenerative disc disease report significant improvement. Anterior lumbar interbody fusion is an effective treatment for lumbar degenerative spine disease. Dr. Braxton’s advanced surgical techniques for anterior lumbar interbody fusion are intended to return the patient to their preferred activities and lifestyle as quickly as possible.

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