Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
The lumbar spine contains the largest vertebrae in our spine and functions as a bearer of most of the upper body’s weight and a shock absorber for our movements. This important job can lead to damage and spinal deterioration over time. These compromised vertebrae, their damaged intervertebral discs, and the compressed spinal nerves that result are the surgical focus of a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF).
During this minimally invasive fusion procedure, damaged discs that are producing radicular (or nerve) pain will be accessed through small incisions on the sides of the lower back. Using specialized techniques, the muscles and ligaments will be separated from the back without incision, creating a window into the posterior side of the lumbar vertebrae. Your surgeon will then remove the protective sheath created by the bones of the laminae. Depending upon your specific situation, your surgeon may also remove a portion of the facet joints to create additional room for pinched spinal nerves.
Through this newly created space, the damaged intervertebral disc will be completely removed. The height between the vertebrae will be restored using surgical tools, and the former intervertebral disc will be replaced with a disc implant containing bone graft material. This implant is often called a “cage” because of its porous exterior shell, which is filled with either bone tissue from the patient’s hip, donated bone material, or a synthetic bone graft. This “cage” will be held firmly into position using fusion hardware. A combination of screws, plates, and rods chosen to fit your specific needs and anatomy will be used to stabilize the implant and affected vertebrae. A spinal fusion restores stability to the vertebrae and allows for the bone graft to grow and heal firmly into place following surgery. The surgery is concluded by returning the muscles and ligaments to their original positions, and closing the incision sites.
Advantages of a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
Advancements in surgical techniques for complex spinal surgeries have led to longer lasting relief for those who are suffering from the excruciating pain of pinched nerves or spinal instability. A minimally invasive Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion uses state-of-the-art surgical materials and techniques, which leads to less time spent in surgery and a shorter recovery period. Benefits of a PLIF often include the following:
- Smaller incision sizes resulting in less blood loss, postoperative pain, and scarring
- Minimal disruption to posterior muscles and ligaments that support the spine
- Durable fusion materials promote the long-lasting success of the implant
- New techniques allow for shorter observation periods in the hospital
- The posterior approach is ideal for performing secondary procedures, like a laminectomy
A specialist in the treatment of lumbar disc herniation and spinal stenosis, Dr. George S. Naseef, MD, of the Advanced Spine Center has nearly 20 years of experience in resolving low back pain. Dr. Naseef has been honored with the distinction of “Top Doctor” four times by New Jersey Monthly Magazine for his commitment to superior spine care. You can rest assured that Dr. Naseef and his multidisciplinary team of spine specialists will accurately diagnose your condition and empower you to lead a pain-free life.
Eligibility Requirements for a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
Successful candidates for minimally invasive PLIF procedures will have an established history of low back pain, radiculopathy in the lower extremities, spinal deformity, or neurological symptoms of numbness or progressive weakness. If these symptoms sound familiar, and conservative treatments such as physical therapy or pain management, have not worked for you, then a PLIF may be a valid option for pain relief.
Although a PLIF is minimally invasive, this procedure is nevertheless a complex surgery which may not be right for everyone. If you are diagnosed with an infection in the spine, an allergy to any of the surgical materials, or a severe medical condition, then a PLIF is not recommended for you. To find out if you are eligible, please contact our experts at the Advanced Spine Center today at (973) 538-0900. Our award-winning, fellowship-trained Top Doctors are happy to answer your questions.