Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
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What is an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?
An ALIF is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is often performed to treat structural instability of the spine or a lumbar herniated disc.
The lumbar spine, although actually being one of the spinal sections with the least number of vertebrae, is a crucial part of the backbone. In the region of the spine that we also refer to as the lower back, the lumbar spine contains the five largest vertebrae in the back. It also bears the brunt of the upper body’s weight, and is instrumental in bending, twisting, and lifting. In between each of these vertebrae are intervertebral discs that provide shock absorption and cushioning to the bones.
These discs are constructed like a jelly-filled donut, with a rubbery outside and a gelatinous interior. Over time, these discs become damaged as a result of normal aging and wear-and-tear, or through other means such as traumatic injuries or degenerative diseases. When degeneration occurs, the discs may begin to bulge out or even rupture, which can lead to compression of the spinal nerves or the spinal cord itself, and inflammation in the surrounding vertebral joints. Other conditions that may cause damage or instability to the lumbar spine include scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and kyphosis. When any of these conditions occur because of damage or degeneration to the front of the spine, a Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) may be helpful in relieving spinal pain and inflammation.
An ALIF is a surgical procedure in which the surgeon accesses your lumbar spine from the front, as opposed to other interbody fusions which may enter from the side or back of the body. After making a small incision in the abdomen, the surgeon will gently push blood vessels to the side, allowing anterior access to the lumbar spine. Removal of the damaged disc will then be followed by the insertion of a bone graft. After the disc is removed, this bone graft is necessary in restoring the height between the vertebrae. Mechanical plates, rods, and screws can be used to hold the bone graft in place as it fuses to existing bone during the healing process. What will result is a solid vertebral structure that can restore structure, stability, and length to the lumbar spine, while also relieving the symptoms of pain and inflammation.
Does any of this ring a bell to you? Have you been experiencing any of the conditions or symptoms above? Dr. Frazier of NYC Spine is here to help you navigate the often complicated and painful roads of spinal conditions. With a decade of experience working in the Harvard Medical System, and 10 years of specialized practice in spinal conditions, he is now one of the world’s leading contributors to surgical advancements in the spinal community.
Can an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) help me?
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What are the Benefits of a Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?
Yes, “minimally invasive” has a good sound to it, but what does it mean exactly? Minimally invasive procedures are the newest, state-of-the-art ways to treat many conditions by minimizing internal trauma to spinal anatomy and by decreasing postoperative discomfort. Surgery is meant to get rid of pain, not to create more pain in abundance!
Like many other minimally invasive procedures, Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) has many benefits including the following:
- Less postoperative pain: Recent advancements in surgical technology have revolutionized this once invasive procedure. What previously took 7-8 hours to execute and required a lengthy stay in the hospital can now be performed in under an hour. With a marked increase in surgical efficiency, also comes less trauma to the internal anatomy surrounding the spine. This ultimately translates into less postoperative pain and much quicker recovery times.
- No disruption to posterior muscles and nerves: Because the surgeon will access your spine from the front, there will be no disruption to the strong layers of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves that are present in the back.
- Beneficial location for fusion: Because of the curvature of the spine, bone grafts that are positioned on the anterior section of the lumbar spine typically have a higher rate of successful fusion.
- Less time in the hospital with less recovery time: Many minimally invasive spinal procedures require shorter stays in the hospital, and for some, these surgeries can even be scheduled as an outpatient procedure.
Dr. Frazier of NYC Spine is a leading surgeon in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery. With over 20 years of experience, he has noted how surgeries that once required large open incisions, 8 hours of surgery, and a 5-7 day stay in the hospital, can now be successfully performed as a 1-hour procedure in an outpatient facility. If spine surgery is the necessary course for you, you can definitely trust the expertise and knowledge of Dr. Frazier.
How do I know if I need an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?
Request a free MRI review & our world-renowned orthopedic spine surgeon, Dr. Frazier, will evaluate your treatment needs.
Do I Qualify for a Minimally Invasive Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?
If you are suffering from pain, inflammation, and difficulty in day-to-day life because of degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, or any other damage to the discs of the lumbar spine, an ALIF may be the right procedure for you. If you have exhausted all other forms of treatment, including pain management, nerve-block injections, physical therapy, among others, then surgical intervention may be your best course of action.
However, there are some situations that may deem a person ineligible for an ALIF. These situations include the following: infection present near the sight of planned surgical incision, sensitivity or allergies to any of the medications or materials used during the fusion surgery, history of aortic bypass or other vascular stent grafts, weak or osteoporotic bones that will not withstand the surgery, or previous unsuccessful spinal fusions.
Regardless of your situation, however, Dr Frazier will be able to sit down with you and provide a thorough assessment of your spinal pain. Individualized care is at the heart of his practice, and you will get a feeling of the family-like atmosphere that exists at NYC Spine the moment you walk through the door. Call us today to set up your first meeting with the team at NYC Spine, and we’ll start your journey on the road to pain relief together!
Am I a candidate for an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?
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Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.
After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Education & Training
MD / Cum Laude
Harvard Medical School
Mass. General Hospital
Spinal Deformity Fellowship
Doctor’s Hospital (Miami, FL)