Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF)

Quick Facts

Possible Symptoms

  • Leg pain, numbness, and/or weakness
  • Back pain, especially with movement
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence

Typical X-Ray Findings

  • Spondylolisthesis, or slippage of one vertebral body upon another (MRI, CT myelogram).
  • Disc and endplate changes suggesting excess “wear and tear” (MRI, CT myelogram).
  • Excess movement of one vertebral body upon another when bending forward or backward (Flexion and extension x-rays)

Average Procedure Time

  • 1.5 hours

Average Recovery Time

  • Home once passing gas (1-3 days)
  • Off work 6-8 weeks, depending on duties

Postperative Limitations

  • No bending, twisting, lifting, or strenuous exercises (8 weeks)
  • No driving while on narcotics

The Procedure

In an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF), an interbody cage is inserted between vertebral bodies from an anterior approach, or from the front.

Since the abdominal contents lie immediately in front of the lumbar spine, ALIFs are generally done in conjunction with a general surgeon familiar with spinal fusion operations.

During the operation, the general surgeon makes an abdominal incision and exposes the lumbar spine by retracting critical abdominal structures out of the way. Next, the disc is removed almost in its entirety.  A large interbody cage is then filled with bone graft and inserted into the disc space.  Some surgeons use screws and/or  plates to secure the cage in its place between the vertebral bodies.  In cases of severe instability, the ALIF is followed by a posterolateral lumbar fusion and minimally invasive instrumentation with screws and rods placed from behind.  This type of “front-back” operation is often called a “360 degree fusion”, or simply a “360”.

The principal advantage of an ALIF is that it allows for removal of almost all of the intervertebral disk and  placement of a large cage that can hold more bone graft, both of which  increase the chances of successful fusion.  In addition, severly dislocated vertebral bodies are most easily brought back into alignment through an anterior approach, so many surgeons prefer ALIFs for patients who have large spondylolistheses, or slippages.

It’s time to lose the pain and get your life back. Call 214-823-2052 or use our easy online form to find out if anterior lumbar interbody fusion is right for your or to request an appointment.