What is an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) procedure?

ALIF is a procedure used to treat problems such as disc degeneration, which may result in spinal instability or deformities in the curve of the spine. In this procedure, the surgeon works on the spine from the front (anterior) and removes a spinal disc in the lower (lumbar) spine. The surgeon inserts a bone graft into the space between the two vertebrae where the disc was removed (the interbody space). The goal of the procedure is to stimulate the vertebrae to grow together into one solid bone, a process known as fusion. Fusion creates a rigid and immovable column of bone in the problem section of the spine. This type of procedure attempts to reduce back pain and other symptoms.

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What are my treatment options?

Many back and leg pain symptoms can be treated without surgery with methods that involve medicine, rest, heat, and physical therapy. It is important that you speak to your physician about the best options for you. If your symptoms do not improve with other nonoperative methods, such as physical therapy, your physician may suggest spinal surgery. Surgery is reserved for those who do not gain relief from nonoperative forms of treatment and/or patients whose symptoms are increasing or worsening.

Is ALIF right for me?

Your physician may determine the ALIF procedure is a good option for you if you require an interbody fusion, are skeletally mature, and have received at least six weeks of nonsurgical treatment. Conversely, your physician may determine that an ALIF procedure is not the right option for you if you are not a good candidate for fusion surgery in general due to other medical conditions. These conditions can be, but are not limited to: signs of inflammation or infection near the operative site, patient sensitivity to implant materials, patients with inadequate bone quality, previous retroperitoneal surgery, previous aortic bypass or endovascular stent graft, and other indications.