When non-operative treatment for degenerative disc disease, spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis (spondylolisthesis) or iatrogenic segmental instability has failed surgeons at the Center for Advanced Spine Care of Southern Arizona may suggest an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF). This procedure can be done via an open left-sided retroperitoneal approach. Minimally invasive approaches are generally directed at single-level disease.

An ALIF is designed to surgically remove  degenerative disc material from the front and to facilitate interbody fusion with cages and bone graft. The anterior approach provides for superior anterior column support and allows for an indirect decompression of nerve roots via interbody distraction. Distraction may reduce the pressure on the pinched nerves. ALIF is also a useful revision strategy for failed posterior spinal fusions. In these cases, fusion spacers in between the degenerated vertebrae may be secured by placing an anterior tension band plate and screws to stablize the motion segment until bony fusion occurs.

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Postop AP & Lateral Xray of the lumbar spine showing L5/S1 ALIF (Top), Anterior View of a L5/S1 ALIF fusion model with tension band plate & screws (bottom left), oblique view of same L5/S1 ALIF fusion model (bottom right).

Surgeons at the Center for Advanced Spine Care of Southern Arizona typically perform this operation through anterior incision below the belly button to just small paraspinal incisions in the lower back. Often patients are able to go home after an overnight stay. Sometimes, patients need to stay longer for pain control and observation. We typically employ a pain pump for postoperative pain control that you may take home. Please check out our postop instructions for lumbar spinal fusion surgery.

Please call us for an appointment if you are having unrelenting back and leg pain with ambulation that has not improved with physical therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and pain medication, spinal injections, and watchful waiting. We would be glad to render an opinion as to whether a ALIF could reduce your symptoms and improve your function. Please check out what one of our patients had to say about this surgery.


Center for Advanced Spine Care of Southern Arizona, 4787 E. Camp Lowell Drive, Tucson AZ 85712

Re: Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Phone: 520-204-1495, Fax: 623-218-1215

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