Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion – Exploring the Benefits and What to Expect from this Procedure
Anterior interbody lumbar fusion (ALIF), is an innovative surgical approach that is performed to remove herniated or degenerative discs in the lumbar spine. ALIF is a minimally invasive procedure where a surgeon makes a small incision on the front side of the body to reach the spine. Once the affected disc is removed, fusing is performed to create a solid bridge between the vertebrae on both sides of the disc space. The goal of the ALIF technique is to reduce lower back pain, tingling and numbness caused by a damaged lumbar disc.
Why is an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion needed?
There are several reasons why your surgeon may recommend the ALIF procedure. If you suffer from low back or leg pain due to spinal instability or degenerative disc disease and have tried other non-surgical solutions to no avail, you may be considered a suitable candidate for this form of treatment. Some of the other possible reasons for choosing ALIF may include:
- Patient has an abnormal curvature of the spine due to scoliosis or kyphosis
- Herniated or degenerative discs are pinching nerves and causing pain
- Slippage of a vertebra bone over another one that compresses nerves
- Narrowing of the spinal canal puts pressure on the nerves causing pain and numbness in the legs
How to Prepare for an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
An ALIF can be performed as both an open or minimally invasive procedure. Minimally invasive technologies allow surgeons to access the affected vertebrae through small incisions and tunnels that are created to accommodate special surgical tools and techniques. Here is a closer look at what you can expect from the procedure:
- Before the Procedure: Presurgical tests are usually conducted several days before the scheduled procedure. Advise your healthcare provider of any medications you are taking and if you are a smoker, it’s important to eliminate tobacco use in order to achieve a successful outcome. Avoid eating or drinking on the day of your surgery or as directed by your doctor. Be ready to discuss the effects and risks of anesthesia with the anesthesiologist before receiving an IV.
- During the Procedure: Once the anesthesia is administered and you fall asleep, the area where your surgeon will make the incision is cleaned. A small incision is made in the lower abdomen and the tissue is gently moved aside for a clearer view and easier access to the affected vertebrae. Using an endoscope, your surgeon can monitor the whole procedure without relying on aggressive surgical techniques. The damaged disc is removed, and a bone graft is inserted into the space for support and to encourage healing. The tissue that was previously moved aside is returned to its place and the incision is closed with standard sutures.
- After the Procedure: After surgery, you may need to take pain medication during the recovery. However, physical therapy will help you return to normal function within a few months after surgery, with most patients being able to go back to work and carry out day-to-day activities in 4-6 weeks.
The Benefits of an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
While most spinal procedures are performed using a posterior approach, an anterior approach may be taken for a number of different reasons. For instance, your surgeon may want to avoid repeated surgeries in one area if you have already had spinal surgery from the back. Furthermore, using an anterior approach allows more direct access to the affected area without disturbing the surrounding nerves. Some additional benefits of an ALIF procedure include:
- Improves the symptoms of pain, tingling and numbness
- Decompresses one or more spinal nerves
- Restores damaged disc to normal disc height
- Provides spinal support and stability
- Minimally invasive approach allows patients to recover quickly
If you are experiencing pain due to a degenerative disc, work closely with an experienced spinal surgeon at Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic. Dr. Lewis is one of the top neurosurgeons in the country, trained in multiple spinal treatment techniques to help patients return to feeling their best. Her has trained other surgeons across the country and pioneered the development of specialized equipment used for complex procedures related to spinal conditions. He has worked in the design and development of anterior lumbar implants and instrumentation since 2004, and performed over 3000 ALIF operations since 2000, including in Lyon, France.
Contact us today to learn more about anterior lumbar body fusions or to schedule a consultation. We’ll find a solution that works for you. Call us at (601) 366-1011.