Surgeons have multiple options about the best way to access the affected area of the lumbar spine to perform a procedure. For example, during an anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) procedure, the surgeon enters the body through the abdomen to gain access to the front of the lumbar spine. If you’re experiencing lower back pain, consult with an experienced spine surgeon to learn more about your options and if ALIF is the right fit for you.

How Do Surgeons Perform Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

For anterior lumbar interbody fusion, the surgical team typically begins by exposing the area of the lumbar that needs work. This includes making an incision on the patient’s abdomen and clearing an unobstructed view of the front of the spine. The direction and location of the incision depends on the area that the surgeon needs to access and whether or not the patient has undergone previous abdominal surgery.

Then, the spine surgeon removes the intervertebral disk and clears the space out. Next, they implant a spacer within the cleared-out area. The spacer, often called a cage, typically contains bone graft material that helps the fusion and promotes healing once the procedure is complete. Many times, surgeons also stabilize the spine by inserting plates and/or screws to hold the cage in place, sometimes requiring an additional incision in the back.

Why Do Surgeons Use an Anterior Approach?

The vast majority of spinal surgeries involve entering the body through the back, or posterior. Surgeons have specific reasons to choose an anterior approach to fuse lumbar vertebrae. They include:

  • Avoiding more than one surgery in the same area if a patient has had previous spinal surgery.
  • Allowing better access to the area of the lumbar spine where the procedure must occur.
  • Providing the ability to add more inward curvature to the spine.
  • Possibly allowing for a faster recovery.

Additionally, surgeons can access the spine with a posterior approach without moving nerves. However, a vascular surgeon typically assists the orthopedic surgeon in safely moving organs and blood vessels.


Anyone who suffers lower back pain that impacts their movement and suffers from a reduced quality of life could be a candidate for ALIF, especially if they haven’t had success with non-invasive measures. The best candidates are patients who are suffering issues at the lowest part of their lumbar spine, closest to their tailbone. 

Surgeons can perform ALIF at the upper lumbar vertebrae, but the procedure presents more challenges and carries a higher risk for complications. Surgeons often recommend other options when patients need to restore disc space in the upper part of the lumbar spine. Ultimately, surgeons will review a patient’s anatomy and their needs to recommend the best spinal fusion approach.

Recovering From Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Most patients who undergo ALIF surgery must stay in the hospital for at least one night after their procedure. However, some patients need to stay a day or two longer. Your ability to stand, walk, and move around will determine how long you must stay. Additionally, your surgeon will meet with you to ensure that you can manage your pain once you go home.

You can expect to stand and walk within the first day after ALIF surgery. However, you will likely wear a back brace for stabilization and healing. After ALIF surgery, patients should not bend, twist, or lift anything more than five to ten pounds. As you heal from surgery, you will perform basic exercises and walk each day for several weeks. ALIF alleviates and sometimes eliminates back pain in patients within a few months after surgery.

Contact the Experienced Florida Spine Doctors at Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery Today

Orthopedic & Laser Spine Surgery offers minimally-invasive spinal treatments, including ALIF, to Florida residents experiencing back pain. The OLSS team includes leaders in orthopedic laser and spine surgery, often taking on complex emergency procedures from peer recommendations. Our team’s experience and pioneering methods in orthopedics make us among some of the best specialists to help you or a loved one get the care and treatment you need.

We are dedicated to providing the best care and treatment to those suffering from debilitating back pain. Our surgeons use the latest research and medical technology to improve the quality of life for each patient. Contact us online or call us at (855) 853-6542 to learn more about anterior lumbar interbody fusion and it’s the right treatment choice for you.

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