When a patient is researching a minimally invasive spinal procedure like the ALIF, there are always plenty of questions. Lumbar spinal fusion procedures are used to treat lower back and/or leg pain often caused by degenerative disc disease, a herniated disc, spondylolisthesis and scoliosis.
The three types of lumbar spinal fusion procedures are distinguished by the approach used to access the spine. A posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) uses an approach from the back. A direct lumbar interbody fusion (DLIF) uses an approach from the side. An anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) uses an approach from the front.
An ALIF is a unique procedure because of its approach through the front of the abdomen. Because an incision is made on the front or side of the stomach, the back muscles and nerves experience no trauma. This results in a better response to physical therapy and a faster recovery.
The ALIF Procedure
An ALIF is 1-3-hour procedure that is performed through the following steps:
- A 3-5-inch incision is made
- The abdominal muscles and abdominal contents are carefully retracted to the side
- A vascular surgeon assists with the approach by mobilizing the blood vessels on the spine
- The damaged disc is partially removed, leaving the disc wall intact
- A metal spacer or “cage” packed with bone graft is placed in the newly formed space
- The cage is secured with a metal plate and screws
- The incision is closed
Following the procedure, the vertebrae rest perfectly on top of one another. Vertebral height lost due to the damaged disc is regained and pressure is taken off of nerve roots that were pinched or compressed.
Recovery and Results
During a 1-3 night stay in the hospital, pain is controlled and light physical therapy consisting of getting up and slowly walking around is started. Over the course of several months, new bone grows and adjacent vertebrae fuse to form a single, solid bone. Symptoms gradually improve and activities are slowly resumed. In many cases, a back brace is worn to take pressure off the healing vertebrae. Patients who have the most successful outcomes following the procedure are generally those who are in good health and do not use tobacco.
Receiving a Diagnosis
If chronic lower back and/or leg pain is ruining your quality of life, contact DISC of Louisiana today to learn more about your treatment options. The specialists at DISC of Louisiana provide patients with long lasting or permanent results using non-surgical and minimally invasive spinal procedures. DISC of Louisiana has convenient locations throughout the Greater New Orleans area.
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