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Home A Patient's Guide to ALIF Surgery Non-Surgical Options About Spine Surgeons

A Patient's Guide to Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) Spinal Surgery

What is it?

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) is an operation that involves approaching the spine through an incision in the abdomen. A spinal fusion is simply the uniting of two vertebral bodies. A portion of the affected disc space is removed from the spine and replaced with an implant. Titanium or stainless steel screws and rods may be inserted into the back of the spine to supplement the stability of the entire construct.

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Why is it done?

Patients who are suffering from chronic back pain due to certain spinal conditions such as degenerative disc disease are potential candidates for the ALIF procedure. Surgery is typically considered only after other non-operative therapies have failed.

The Operation

The ALIF operation is performed with the patient lying on his or her back.

Incision

The surgeon makes an incision in the patient's abdomen to access the spine. The size of the incision varies for each patient. To have a clear view of the spine, the surgeon moves the abdominal and vascular structures aside. Sometimes two surgeons perform the operation: an approach surgeon and a spinal surgeon. The approach surgeon will access the spine, and then the spinal surgeon will perform the fusion procedure.

Disc Removal

Once the spine is in view, the surgeon removes a portion of the degenerated disc from the affected disc space.

Material Placement

After the disc material is removed, the surgeon inserts metallic cages containing bone graft material into the disc space — such as autograft or a bone graft substitute like INFUSE® Bone Graft — to restore the normal height of the disc space and cause the two vertebral bodies to fuse together.

After Surgery

After surgery, the patient will normally stay in the hospital between 2 to 5 days. The specific time of stay in the hospital will depend on the patient and the surgeon's specific post-operative treatment plan. The patient will normally be up and walking in the hospital by the end of the first day after the surgery. The surgeon will have a specific post-operative recovery / exercise plan to help the patient return to normal life as soon as possible. Read more about recovery.

For more information about INFUSE® Bone Graft, talk to your doctor. To find a doctor who uses INFUSE® Bone Graft, visit our Find A Doctor locator.

The materials on this Web site are for your general educational information only. Information you read on this Web site cannot replace the relationship that you have with your health care professional. We do not practice medicine or provide medical services or advice as a part of this Web site. You should always talk to your health care professional for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Published: December 07, 2005
  • Updated: April 23, 2010