What Is Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)?

Posterior lumbar interbody fusion is a procedure performed to fuse the vertebrae in the lumbar (low back) region of the spine together for stability and may be performed using minimally invasive techniques. PLIF surgery is fusion surgery from a posterior (back) approach and may be recommended as an option for relieving pain resulting from conditions including spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease or disc herniation.

The goal of surgical treatment is to substantially increase quality of life. Back surgeon Dr. LaRocca may endorse surgical procedures in case there is noticeable fatigue, soreness or any time all other treatment options have already been utilized.

What to Expect

During the Procedure

During the procedure, Dr. Sandro LaRocca will make a three to six-inch incision in the center of the low back and move the muscles aside to expose the lamina. The lamina—the protective bony cover of the spinal cord—is removed (a laminectomy) and the nerve roots retracted.

With the nerve roots out of the way, the affected vertebral disc material is removed. A bone graft or cage containing bone graft material is inserted into the empty disc space to promote the fusion of the two 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.

Screws are then inserted into the bone and rods are inserted to provide stability. After the rods are in place, graft material will be applied along the spine after the top layer of bone is removed to expose the soft healing bone underneath. This also promotes the fusion of the vertebrae.

After the Procedure

The majority of patients who undergo PLIF are able to leave the hospital one to two days following surgery and are able to return to work and normal daily activities within a few weeks.