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Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Home Specialties Back Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

What is Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion?

Minimally invasive lumbar fusion is a surgical procedure used to fuse together bones in the spine to treat degenerative disc disease, a condition usually caused by wear and tear on discs in the vertebrae. Symptoms include weakness, numbness, and sharp, shooting pains in the hips and backs of the legs. Increased pain and bladder or bowel problems are signs that the condition is worsening and should be checked out by a doctor.

If your spinal surgeon has recommended a fusion with screws and rods in the back of your spine, consult with a spine surgeon experienced in minimally invasive anterior lumbar interbody fusion, as this type of surgery can decrease your recovery time and increase the success of your surgery. Many spine surgeons are not trained or experienced in this technique and, therefore, may recommend a more invasive surgery with screws and rods.

When is it Recommended?

Medical providers may suggest less invasive treatments before recommending surgery. These may include pain medications or physical therapy. Some people find relief from complementary therapies like massage or acupuncture, but these are usually used in addition to traditional medicine. If the pain or numbness persists, however, a doctor may recommend surgery. If you are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery, it may be able to solve your problem without the need for a more invasive procedure that requires a longer recovery. Not all back pain, however, can be treated with surgery. Your doctor will only recommend surgery if it is indicated to treat your symptoms.

Symptoms Treated by Minimally Invasive ALIF

This type of surgery may be necessary to treat the following conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Foraminal Stenosis
  • Facet Joint Syndrome
  • Failed Back & Neck Surgery
  • Disc Tear
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Bulging Disc
Dr. Doerr Orthopedic Surgeon

What is Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, or ALIF, is a surgical treatment designed to weld together bones in the lower part of the back in order to fuse them into one solid bone, reducing pain. An interbody fusion is a type of fusion that removes the damaged disk. In an anterior lumbar interbody fusion, the surgeon accesses the spine through the front of the body. The surgery is considered minimally invasive because a small incision is made on the abdomen, and small tools can be inserted without major risk of damage to surrounding muscle fibers. Performing this surgery from the front also helps prevent disruption to sensitive nerves. In many cases, the fusion may be supplemented by a small incision on the back with small screws used to stabilize the facet joints on the back of the spine.

What to Expect During Recovery

After a minimally invasive ALIF, the doctor will prescribe medication for pain around the incision. You can usually return to your normal activities and diet within a few days, but individual situations vary. You may need x-rays or other procedures to determine the success of the surgery. If you have no complications, you can usually go home within 48 hours. After surgery, the symptoms of the degenerative disease may go away immediately or gradually.

Your healthcare provider will tell you which medications or supplements to avoid while recovering. They may also tell you to eat a diet that is high in Vitamin D and calcium to promote strong bones and healing. Although a little drainage from the incision site is normal, you should call your doctor if you notice an increase in swelling, redness, or drainage or if you have significant pain or a fever. If you have stitches, they will be removed two weeks or so after the procedure.

During recovery, follow all your doctor’s instructions about exercise, work, driving, and follow-up visits. Medical journals estimate the ALIF procedure to have a success rate of 87 to 97 percent, and most people return to their daily routines and activities with few or no restrictions.

Orthopedic Specialists

Jeffrey Hessing, MD and Timothy Doerr, MD have a passion for helping others. They have a combined 50 years of orthopedic excellence dedicated to the people of the Boise area. All of our surgeons are board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Dr. Doerr

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