Spine Procedures


The ALIF procedure is used to treat Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease. The degenerated disc is removed and the vertebrae are fused.

Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Approach Through Interbody Fusion

ALIF, or Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, is a procedure carried out on the lower spine (lumbar) in order to alleviate pain caused by Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease. The anterior approach is used to immobilize the disc space between lumbar segment 4 and 5 or lumbar segment 5 and sacral segment 1.

How it Works

To begin the procedure, a 3 to 5 inch incision is made through the anterior lower left abdomen and the abdominal muscles are pushed to the side. The abdominal contents stored within the peritoneum are also retracted in order to access the vertebrae. The aorta and vena cava lie on top of the spine and must be carefully mobilized by a vascular surgeon.

Once the major blood vessels have been mobilized, the degenerated disc material is extracted and replaced with a titanium cage. The cage is then filled and surrounded with bone graft in order to alleviate the nerve root pressure surrounding the vertebrae.

In the months following surgery, the bones heal and fuse together. However, in the case that the bones don’t fuse, the anterior and posterior approaches are combined in order to increase stability and fixation.

What are the risks of ALIF?

There is the danger of damaging the major blood vessels that run through to the legs during the procedure. The risk rate ranges from 1% to 15%, with those numbers fluctuating based on patients’ medical history.

Other risks following surgery include retrograde ejaculation in male patients. If disturbed, small nerves controlling an ejaculatory valve above the disc space cause sperm to be expelled into the bladder. This, however, only occurs in less than 1% of individuals who undergo surgery and normally heals within a few months to a year.

What are the benefits of ALIF

The anterior approach is highly successful in many cases of low-level degenerative disc diseases. Patients who undergo this procedure are expected to be alleviated from pain in the lower spine. The surgery is particularly beneficial because it does not interfere with the back muscles or disrupt posterior nerves and offers high fusion rates.

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