Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion is usually done to treat back or leg pain. It is performed from the front of the low back regions for reasons such as degenerative disc disease, fracture, or instability of the spine. The goal with fusion is to stabilize the spine so that pain or deformity is reduced. This type of spinal fusion has a long history and includes placing bone graft or instrumentation in the disc space. In some patients, this will be enough to secure the vertebrae, however, for others the surgeon may need to implant a series of screws and rods along the back of the spine for additional support.
Over time, the bone graft will grow through and around the implants forming a bone bridge that connects the vertebrae above and below. This solid bone bridge is called a fusion.
Some advantages of Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion are as follows:
- Unlike PLIF both the back muscles and nerves remain undisturbed.
- Placing the bone graft in the front of the spine places it in compression, which tends to fuse better.
- A much larger implant can be inserted through an anterior approach, which provides for better initial stability of the fusion construct.