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Fusions Surgeries: ALIF and TLIF

  • Category: Back Surgery
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: DR. HAMID ABBASI

There are several options when it comes to surgical procedures meant to relieve back pain including spinal fusion surgery. Types of spinal fusion surgeries include ALIF, TLIF, PLIX, and XLIF.

During a spinal fusion, two or more vertebrae are joined (or fused) together. The fusion of the two vertebrae is typically facilitated using a bone graft taken from the patient’s pelvic bone or from a donor. Once the bone graft is collected, it is packed between the vertebrae to “fuse” the two vertebrae together.

This form of surgery is commonly done to treat spinal disorders such as scoliosis, spinal fractures, severe disc degeneration, or spondylolisthesis. Generally, it is only considered after other extensive non-operative therapies have failed.

ALIF Spinal Surgery

ALIF, short for Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, is done on the anterior (front) part of the body and is similar to the PLIF procedure. This procedure is typically completed through an incision made on the side or in the lower abdominal area. If done via the lower abdominal area it might later require the repair of the muscles of the lower abdomen.

After the surgeon makes the incision, the vertebrae are accessed and the disc material is removed – once the blood vessels and abdominal muscles have been retracted. Then, the bone graft is inserted to stabilize the spine and facilitate the fusion.

TLIF Spinal Surgery

TLIF, which stands for Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion, is a refined version of the PLIF procedure. TLIF has recently gained popularity as another surgical option for those suffering from conditions that affect the lumbar spine. During the procedure, the spine is approached through an incision in the patient’s back then through the spinal canal. By entering this route, the nerve manipulation and surgical muscle dissection required to reach the nerves, vertebrae, and discs are minimized greatly.

Because of the lack of disruption within the patient, this option is generally safer for the nerves and much less traumatic for the spine. As is done in the ALIF, the bone graft replaces the disc material, which is removed. Once again, the bone graft acts as a tool for stabilizing and strengthening the spine.

Post-Fusion Surgery

Following either of these spinal fusion surgeries, recovery time is necessary but varies by patient. Most patients are up and walking again by the end of the first day following their surgery. However, most patients should expect a 3-5 day hospital stay depending on their condition after the surgery. Upon release from the hospital, patients are given pain medications to be taken as needed for pain and will also be provided with a very details recovery plan to ensure they return to a healthy life. This plan will entail the patient’s post-operative activity allowances, physical therapy, and exercise plan.