Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

What You Need to Know: Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery

Typically, surgery is recommended only after other treatments have failed to reduce the pain in your back or legs. A posterior lumbar interbody fusion procedure or PLIF is one of several back surgeries available at Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic. During this procedure, Dr. Lewis removes the disc that is causing you pain, and he fuses the vertebrae using bone grafts. Because the surgery involves an incision made on the back, it is called a posterior fusion procedure.

What Happens During Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery?

Dr. Lewis starts with a three- to six-inch incision and moves through the following steps:

  1. Following the midline of your back, he removes the lower back muscles from the lamina at different levels.
  2. Once he has established visibility of the nerve roots, he trims facet joints (bony protrusions) to provide more room for the nerve roots.
  3. Moving the nerve roots to one side, Dr. Lewis removes material from the disk.
  4. A bone graft is placed inside the disk base to allow the bone to grow from the body and fuse with the graft.

Advantages of Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery

There are several advantages to using the posterior lumbar interbody fusion technique versus other spinal fusion techniques. These benefits include the following:

  • Intervertebral separation maintains the three-dimensional balance of the spine and provides decompression of the nerve pathways as well as the lateral openings.
  • Interbody implants with a bone graft maintain the height of the disc and support the load placed on the spine.
  • Depending on the technique used, the bone graft is subject to dynamic compression and can help bear the load of the spine.
  • This technique maximizes the surface area of the bone graph for enhanced healing.

PLIF Risks and Complications

The main risk of a posterior lumbar interbody fusion procedure is a failure to obtain a solid fusion. If the PLIF does not obtain a union between the component vertebrae, additional surgery may be required. However, fusion rates are extremely high. So, your chances for a favorable outcome are too.
Who is at risk for non-fusion? You may have a lower rate of success with PLIF if you:

  • Are obese
  • Smoke
  • Have had spinal surgery before
  • Have received radiation for cancer in the past

As long as the joints remain stable and your symptoms improve, you will not require additional back surgery.

Other complications include bleeding and infection. Some patients experience a return of pain and other symptoms following the surgery.

Medical Equipment to Prepare at Home

You may need specialized equipment to get around at home as you recuperate from the procedure. Ask Dr. Lewis whether you should have the following or other equipment at home:

  • Walker
  • Long-handled reacher
  • Elevated toilet seat
  • Chair to bathe or shower

You can travel home by car by lying on the back seat or reclining on the passenger front seat. Arrange for transportation home as you will be unable to drive.

Contact the Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic to learn more about a posterior lumbar interbody fusion procedure and other spinal procedures performed by Dr. Lewis. Call us at (601) 366-1011 today to make an appointment. We’ll find a solution that works for you.