Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion surgery (ALIF) is an anterior approach spinal fusion surgery done through the patient’s abdomen. Anterior fusion surgery is useful in situations where extra stability is needed for spinal realignment. Examples are when multiple spinal levels are affected, or multiple discs are damaged. Spinal fusions done from an anterior orientation offer excellent support and stability and a high likelihood of a successful fusion.
During the ALIF procedure the spinal access surgeon creates an opening in the abdomen of the patient, then temporarily moves intestines and blood vessels out of the way, creating a pathway for the spine surgeon to perform the fusion procedure. Anterior access spinal surgery does not require retraction of spinal nerves. This lowers the patient’s risk of neurologic injury. ALIF is felt to be the gold standard and safest anterior spinal access surgical technique in that it allows the surgeons to handle any complications that arise in the swiftest, most efficient manner.
Because ALIF surgery requires a standard incision in the abdomen, it comes with a higher risk of ileus (intestinal obstruction) than other spinal access techniques that are more minimally invasive. (See OLIF and DLIF for more information on these minimally invasive surgeries.) ALIF potentially requires a longer hospital stay than these procedures do.
While all surgical procedures come with risks, spinal access procedures have their own set of unique risks that patients should understand thoroughly. Risks of ALIF include:
- Possible damage to the bowel, ureter, or blood vessels
- Blood clots
- Retrograde ejaculation in men
- Fluid collection
- Peripheral nerve injury causing motor or sensory deficits
For more information, please see Risks of Spinal Access Surgery. You may also call our office with questions or to arrange a consultation with one of our surgeons.