Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
This procedure is performed to alleviate back pain due to lumbar degenerative disc disease and/or to remove pressure from the nerves from a lumbar disc herniation causing leg pain.
In this procedure the spine is approached from the front (through the abdomen, usually just to the left of the belly button), therefore avoiding extensive muscle cutting and minimizing postoperative pain.
It is done with the assistance of a cardiothoracic surgeon because the organs and vasculature need to be retracted to the side to allow appropriate exposure of the spine. Once this is done, removal of the degenerative disc is then completed. The painful disc is then replaced by a plastic cage filled with bone graft to allow the two bones to fuse together.
Patients will typically be hospitalized for 1-3 days and are often required to wear a velcro back brace for walking, sitting and daily activities (it can be removed for sleep and showering). Strenuous activity should be avoided for 6-12 weeks while the bones are fusing.