Pinellas County ALIF or Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Most spinal surgeries are done via a posterior approach—in other words, through the back. For some patients, however, an anterior, or frontal approach is more appropriate. If you have a disc problem that has not responded to conservative therapy, you may be a candidate for anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) surgery.

Reach out to an experienced spinal surgeon to schedule an appointment and discuss your treatment options. A Pinellas County ALIF or anterior lumbar interbody fusion doctor could determine whether this particular approach is better for your particular condition.

What is Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Spinal fusion surgery corrects issues with the spinal vertebrae by welding them so they heal together as solid bone. During the ALIF procedure, the surgeon makes an incision through the abdomen just to the left of the navel, removes the intervertebral disc, and inserts a spacer made of plastic or metal in its place.

Known as a “cage,” this spacer generally includes bone graft materials, which complements the fusion and speeds healing. Screws or plates keep the cage stable and in place.

During the operation, the surgeon must move abdominal organs, muscles and blood vessels. These are returned to their proper position when the procedure is finished and the incision closed.

Conditions Treated with ALIF

Disc problems are not the only spinal issues suitable for ALIF. Other conditions that may benefit from this surgery include:

Potential Complications

As with any surgery, there is always the risk of complications. With ALIF, these include infection, nerve damage, bladder and bowel problems, and bleeding. In some cases, the bone graft does not fuse, which may require additional surgery.

Reasons for an Anterior Approach

A surgeon may decide an anterior approach makes more sense for certain patients. This is especially true if the patient has already had posterior spinal surgeries, as the surgeon may not want to perform another surgery in the same area. Other reasons for an ALIF may include:

  • More direct access to impacted area
  • No need to move nerves
  • Faster recovery

Patients suffering from osteoporosis, or brittle bones, are generally not ALIF candidates. The same holds true for patients suffering from severe osteoarthritis. Patients with diabetes or high blood pressure are at increased risk during ALIF surgery, but the surgeon could determine whether their condition eliminates ALIF as an option.

Recovering After ALIF Surgery

Patients should expect to remain the hospital for several days after an anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery. With the help of a back brace, patients may be able to stand and walk the first day after the procedure.

Most patients cannot return to work for at least six weeks after ALIF, but recovery may be quicker than from a posterior surgery. The surgeon may prescribe pain medication, and patients must undergo physical therapy while recuperating.

Contact a Pinellas County ALIF or Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgeon

If you would like more information about ALIF or anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery in Pinellas County, contact a qualified spinal surgeon. During a private consultation, you doctor could determine the best treatment options for your condition.