What is ALIF Surgery?
Anterior lumbar interbody fusion surgery (ALIF) is a surgical procedure used to help treat pain and discomfort in the lower back. This surgery can be performed as either a minimally invasive procedure or an open surgery, depending on the extent of the condition of the patient.
ALIF Surgery is performed by entering from the front of the body (anterior) via an incision created in the abdomen. The affected disc or discs are removed and an interbody implant is inserted into the void to help maintain the space where the vertebra(e) was located. This is necessary to prevent the nerve roots and adjacent tissues from being trapped or pinched.
In addition to the implant, plates, screws and rods may be used to help keep the implant stable and in place.
Recovery After ALIF Surgery
Those that undergo ALIF surgery are typically able to return home three or four days following surgery. During the hospital stay, physical and occupational therapists will guide the patient in proper techniques for sitting, bending, lifting, getting out of bed and walking.
Pain medications will be prescribed; these are usually tapered off over the course of two weeks following surgery.
Many patients resume light duty jobs within two to three weeks following surgery. Those in higher impact occupations can expect to return to work after at least three months.
Physical therapy is typically prescribed to help patients regain mobility, strength and flexibility.
Risks of ALIF Surgery
As with any surgical procedure, certain risks are always present. These risks can be reduced greatly when the surgery is carried out by an experienced, qualified surgeon.
Some of the risks that can be associated with ALIF surgery include:
- Damage to adjacent major blood vessels: Large blood vessels run very close to the area that ALIF surgery is performed. These vessels can become damaged, resulting in excessive blood loss. Working with a highly experienced ALIF surgeon decreases the chance of this complication occurring.
- Retrograde ejaculation: For men, the nerve that controls the directional valve for ejaculation is located in the region where ALIF surgery takes place. Damage to this nerve can result in the patient losing function of the valve and experiencing retrograde ejaculation. This is rare and typically resolves on its own over time.
- Infection: Infection is always a risk with any procedure. The risk is greatly minimized when properly sterilized instruments and instrumentation are used.
Is ALIF Surgery Right for Me?
Determining if ALIF surgery is the best choice for you depends on many factors. This is why it’s necessary to find an experienced, compassionate and qualified surgeon to assess your spinal care needs. Depending on the cause of your lower back pain, ALIF may be the perfect fit for you.