HOME / Treatments / Spine Surgery / Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) in New Jersey

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) in New Jersey

Man hunched over holding back in pain


hen a patient experiences back pain, it always indicates an underlying problem. It may just be related to muscular strain, or it may require an evaluation to determine if the root cause is more structurally related. Anatomical changes or deformities in some patients may require spine surgery. One procedure that neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons use to treat lumbar back pain caused by an anatomical abnormality is the anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) surgery. Anterior refers to the anatomical approach of this procedure, which is via the front rather than the back of the body.

Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) provides quality care and treatment for all spine, nerve, and brain conditions. At CNSO, patients across New Jersey work with award-winning, compassionate neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, pain management doctors, physical medicine doctors, and physical therapists, all spine specialists, to achieve relief from their back pain.

What Is Fusion Surgery?

An anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a type of spinal fusion procedure. Fusion surgery is required when the spine discs and/or small spine bones called vertebrae become too diseased to comfortably and safely support a person’s back and ease of movement. Surgeons stabilize the spine’s anatomical functions by uniting the healthy bone while maintaining structural integrity.

Fusions should only be done when necessary and by a highly skilled neurosurgeon or orthopedic fellowship-trained spine surgeon. For patients with arthritis, as well as spinal cord trauma or fractures, fusions might be the right solution if conservative care fails. Fusion stabilizes the vertebrae, so the spinal cord and its branching nerve roots are not compressed or transected. This reduces or eliminates the painful symptoms associated with structurally related causes of back pain.

What Is an Interbody Fusion?

An interbody fusion is performed when a patient has a collapsed intervertebral disc that is no longer functional. During an interbody fusion, the spine surgeons remove the problematic dysfunctional intervertebral disc. Included in the interbody fusion may be the insertion of a biomechanical cage or spacer to fill the area from which the intervertebral disc was removed. Spacers can be made of titanium, metal, plastic, or bone.

Surgeons place the spacer between the two adjoining vertebrae, fusing them and initiating healing. It optimally maintains the natural space of the removed intervertebral disc.

What Is ALIF?

An anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a type of interbody spinal fusion focusing on the anterior lumbar (or the lower back). Surgeons access this spinal area and work to remove the intervertebral disc through an incision in the front of the abdomen. ALIF allows easy access to the spinal column, in which the spinal cord is protected, and minimizes the need to retract nerve roots. However, surgeons must still access the area moving around organs and blood vessels to anteriorly reach the spine.

Because of the expertise required to access the spine from the anterior side of the patient, vascular surgeons often assist neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons during the surgery. This co-surgeon helps to minimize the duration under anesthesia.

What Does ALIF Surgery Treat?

Reduced vertebral bones and disc size can occur for many reasons, but most stem from the development of certain diseases and conditions. These include:

Signs and Symptoms That May Indicate ALIF Is Necessary

While back pain is a normal part of aging, it should never be debilitating or affect a patient’s lifestyle. When it does, spine surgery may be necessary. Other signs that indicate the need for ALIF surgery may include:

  • Back pain that persists for more than two weeks
  • Trauma
  • Decreased strength in arms and legs
  • Weakened bladder or bowel control

Back pain may stem from fractures, cancers, or infections. Patients should see a spine surgeon specialist for an accurate diagnosis.

Why Do I Need ALIF?

While most spine surgeries are performed from the back, the ALIF approach is a small incision in the abdomen. This can be done for many reasons, but the most valued is both the visualization of the spine and the more rapid recovery of an anterior approach. Patients who are indicated for an ALIF have a shorter recovery time of two weeks.

Performing the Procedure

To begin the procedure, spinal surgeons typically make a small incision along the patient’s abdomen. Incisions can be vertical or horizontal, and if only one level of the spine requires an interbody fusion, the incision size is less than 3 centimeters long. The incision’s size and location depend on the area of the back injury and the number of levels of the spine needing correction.

With the assistance of a vascular surgeon who controls the integrity of the blood vessels and other body elements while exposing the problematic level of the spine, neurosurgeons or orthopedic spine surgeons can then clearly access the spine Once visualization of the spine is optimized, the spine surgeons remove the intervertebral disc from the disc space. Next, the neurosurgeon spine specialist places the spacer in the disc space between the two adjoining vertebrae. Spacers typically hold bone graft material to enhance healing and enable fusion.

After placing the cage, spine surgeons may use biomechanical plates or screws to hold the spacer in place adding further stability to the spinal construct.

ALIF and Other Surgical Services at CNSO

At CNSO, patients can meet with the award-winning team of neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, interventional pain management physicians, physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, and certified physical therapists. Each doctor takes a conservative approach to spine care, which includes pain management, physical strengthening, and conditioning treatment, offering assistance through every step of the patient’s journey. From pain management to physical therapy to spine surgery, CNSO takes pride in being New Jersey’s most comprehensive spine center.

CNSO surgeons utilize state-of-the-art diagnostic and surgical equipment. This has allowed patients to receive minimally invasive spine surgery either with or without the utilization of robotics. The CNSO minimally invasive techniques can be applied to many back surgeries, including an ALIF. The CNSO techniques enable surgeries to be completed through smaller incisions without cutting through excess muscle and tissue.

The smaller incisions decrease the chances of developing muscle and nerve damage. Minimally invasive spine surgery takes less time to recover. Further, it can decrease the chances of complications and promote healing time at the incision site.

Recovering From ALIF

ALIF surgery has a high success rate, with about 95% of patients making an efficient recovery. Most patients stay in the hospital for one to three days following ALIF surgery. However, this can change depending on the patient’s recovery experience.

Patients are encouraged to stand and walk starting the first day after surgery. They may be given back braces to promote comfort and protect the back as it heals from the spinal fusion. Patients should do simple, basic exercises and walk routinely for several weeks after surgery. However, they should avoid bending or twisting their back and not lift heavy items.

Recovery rates for patients who undergo ALIF are much more promising than traditional spinal surgery methods. Those who have ALIF are less likely to experience complications than those who have an anterior and posterior procedure to fix the same condition. The recovery time for most patients who undergo ALIF surgery is typically within two weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions About ALIF Surgery

How Long Does It Take to Recover After ALIF Surgery?

Full recovery after ALIF surgery can take two weeks for most who are in good physical condition before the surgery. It will take longer before a patient can do any heavy lifting or bend at the waist.

How Long Does a Bone Graft Take to Fill Gaps Between Vertebrae?

It could take a year or more before a bone graft completely fuses with a patient’s vertebrae.

How Successful Is ALIF Surgery?

One study shows ALIF surgery results in successful bone fusion for 99% of patients.

How Do I Choose the Right Neurosurgery Center for Treatment?

CNSO makes treatment convenient by offering all aspects of spine care within each office setting, including physical therapy and pain management.

Get ALIF Treatment at CNSO

Patients can find comprehensive spine treatment at Centers for Neurosurgery, Spine & Orthopedics (CNSO) in northern New Jersey, with office locations across Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Morris, and Hudson counties. The dedicated surgical and non-surgical orthopedic spine specialists understand how back pain can affect a patient’s daily life. CNSO wants to help patients return to their favorite activities pain-free.

The neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, pain control doctors, physical medicine doctors, and physical therapists at CNSO puts patient education at its forefront, taking time to inform patients of their diagnosis and treatment options. This ensures each patient receives the attention they deserve and personalized treatment options for their diagnosis. To learn more about ALIF surgery, contact CNSO today.


CNSO Conditions for Spine and Brain Surgery

Our Medical Staff

In order to provide an accurate diagnosis with the most effective treatment option for “back problems” and brain tumors, CNSO is led by neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. Under the care of our award-winning neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons, Northern NJ patients can have the confidence that their medical condition will be handled with consideration for their comfort and long-term well-being as well as technical excellence.

Centers for Neurosurgery Spine & Orthopedics