ALIF is a surgical procedure performed to fuse vertebrae in the spine together to provide stability. It is generally performed for the following reasons:
During the Procedure
In contradistinction to the posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF), ALIF is performed through the abdomen instead of the back. During the procedure, Dr. LaRocca will create a three to five-inch incision in the abdomen and move the muscles to the side. The organs located in the abdomen are contained within a large sac known as the peritoneum, which is also moved for easy, non-intrusive access to the spine.
Finally, after the blood vessels are moved aside and the spine is exposed, the affected disc material is removed and a bone graft or a bone graft and anterior body cage is inserted to stabilize the spine. An anterior interbody cage is a porous, titanium or PEEK cylinder that is put in the disc space and allows the bone graft to grow through and fuse the vertebrae together. The bone graft material is rarely taken from the hip but may also be donated from a cadaver or consist of various biologically active materials that promote bone growth.
After the Procedure
Patients are able to go home following a two to three day stay at the hospital, during which time they will receive instructions from a physical therapist on proper entry and exit from the bed and independent walking. Patients may also be instructed to avoid bending, twisting or lifting for several weeks and may return to work as soon as two to three weeks after the procedure.