anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) – relief for back and leg pain
Anterior lumbar interbody fusion is a procedure performed to remove a large part of a degenerated disc that is causing back or leg pain. It also serves to provide spinal stability. Because it is an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, the spine is approached from the front of the body, as opposed to posterior or lateral fusion procedures which approach the spine from the back and side, respectively. This anterior approach helps the surgeon avoid the lower back muscles.
In an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, the surgeon removes damaged disc material to create space between affected vertebrae. This relieves pressure on spinal nerves. After the disc has been removed the surgeon will fill the space with bone graft materials, which will encourage the vertebrae above and below the affected disc to fuse. This restores spinal support and stability.
Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) procedure specifics
To begin the procedure an incision is made on the lower abdomen, generally to the left of the middle of the body. This incision provides exposure to the front of the lumbar portion of the spine. Either some or all of the degenerated disc is removed. If a portion of the disc material is left, it is used to enclose the bone graft implant.
The surgeon prepared the newly vacated disc space to accept a cage. This cage is filled with bone graft material. Not only does this provide stability to the spine, but it encourages new bone to grow and fuse the affected vertebrae.