Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
An Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) is a minimally invasive procedure that targets the lumbar spine and is aimed at repairing structural deformity, vertebral instability, and damage to the cushiony intervertebral discs. During this procedure, your surgeon will access the large vertebrae of the lower back through a small incision in the abdomen, replacing the traditional and painful approach through the back. This anterior approach offers many benefits, and affords the surgeon a less obstructed route to the damaged intervertebral discs or vertebrae.
After making a small incision, specialized instruments will be used to gently move tissues, organs, and blood vessels to the side, instead of incising through them. This allows for less painful and physically damaging access to the intervertebral discs that are causing your discomfort.
After removing damaged disc material, your doctor will insert a spacer to restore the height between the vertebrae that was previously filled by the intervertebral disc. This spacer, often referred to as a “cage”, contains bone graft material that will aid in the subsequent fusion of these adjacent vertebrae. These bone grafts can be taken from your hip, a donor bone supply, or an artificial material. The source of the graft will depend upon your personal situation and condition. Once the bone graft is in place, the surgeon will also use plates, rods, and screws to hold the graft in place as it heals, completing the surgical procedure. During healing, the implanted bone graft material will act as a facilitator, as your existing bone structure will grow into and around the implanted material. This will result in a lasting and stable vertebral structure.
Advantages of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
A minimally invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) has many benefits stemming from its anterior approach, advanced instrumentation and techniques, and resultant improvements in a patient’s prognosis for long-term recovery. Some of the specific benefits of ALIF include the following:
- Small incisions mean less blood loss, less pain, less scarring, and shorter recovery times
- The anterior approach avoids damage to the thick and strong posterior muscles of the back
- The anterior placement of the fusion has proven to be more successful than the posterior
- Little to no manipulation of the spinal nerves leads to less chances for permanent damage
- The location of the fusion allows for the natural compression of the spine to aid in healing
- Minimally invasive procedures allow for less pain, shorter hospital stays, and a faster recovery
The surgical team at the Advanced Spine Center has years of clinical training and experience in specialized and state-of-the-art procedures like ALIF. Our award-winning surgeon, Dr. Lowenstein, is an expert in the specialized treatment of spinal deformities like scoliosis and the structural instabilities associated with spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal trauma. You can trust the expertise of the Advanced Spine team to assess, diagnose, and treat your debilitating spine pain condition.
Eligibility Requirements for an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
You may be a candidate for a minimally invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) if you are suffering from the painful symptoms associated with bulging or herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, or deformities such as scoliosis. Debilitating symptoms such as stabbing or localized pain, radiating pain or radiculopathy, immobility and stiffness, and tingling or burning sensations may be present with any of these conditions.
However, there may be certain situations that prohibit an individual from receiving an ALIF procedure. If you have previously had multiple abdominal surgeries or a failed lumbar fusion; or if you have been diagnosed with extreme structural instability in the vertebrae caused by compression fractures, osteoarthritis, or obesity, you may not qualify for this procedure.
If you have any questions regarding your candidacy for this procedure, please contact the award-winning team at the Advanced Spine Center at (973) 538-0900 and one of our patient advocates will be happy provide you with further information.