The ALIF (Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) is a method of Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion in which the affected disc is accessed anteriorally (from the front), as opposed to posteriorly (from the back) or laterally (from the side). The surgical approaches used will depend on the location of the spinal condition as well as severity. ALIF procedures are often used to treat conditions such as Degenerative Disc Disease, Spondylosis and Spondylolisthesis. The main benefit is that the posterior muscles of the spine do not need to recovery the surgical trauma from the surgery and the recovery and ultimate function is far better then with posterior lumbar fusion surgery.
This procedure involves the utilization of fluoroscopic visualization and guidance to ensure the precise location of instruments as well as enhanced visualization of the surgical area.
How It Is Performed
First, an incision of a few centimeters is made anteriorly to the affected spinal level. Once the incision is made, retractors are placed for visualization of the area. Next, the intervertebral disc is removed to relieve the pressure on the spinal nerve.
Second, in the empty space where the disc was removed, a cage and bone graft is implanted to allow for fusion. This bone graft will fuse with the bones above and below creating one stable bone. The use of a stabilizing plate and/or small interbody screws may be used to increase stability. This process also restores height to the disc and prevents the nerve from become entrapped again.
Traditionally, Spinal Fusion surgeries required a very long posterior incision and the dissection of spinal muscles. This “traditional” posterior approach made for a very lengthy recovery. However, using this ALIF approach and surgery , Dr. Geisler is able to perform this procedure in a “muscle sparing” fashion. This technique utilizes the usage of a smaller incision, decreased dissection and the use of small instrumentation to achieve spinal fusions.