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Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

An anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a spinal procedure that accesses the lower vertebrae through the front of the torso and replaces a disc (the material between vertebrae that serves as a cushion) with a bone graft or substitute, allowing vertebrae to fuse.

Why Would I Need an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Accessing the spine from the front of the body can be preferable to approaching from the back, depending on where the bone graft is to be inserted and the extent of the spinal damage. The method of fusion depends on the patient’s specific condition. ALIFs are commonly performed in the following situations:
  • Fractured vertebrae
  • Protruding discs between vertebrae
  • Spondylolisthesis – the slipping of one vertebrae over another
  • Scoliosis and other abnormal curvatures of the spine
  • Spinal instability

General symptoms of lumbar injury or conditions include:

  • Sciatica – pain from the hip, through the leg and in the foot
  • Tingling and numbness of lower extremities
  • Weak leg muscles
  • Lower back and buttocks pain

ALIFs are typically only recommended after non-surgical strategies have failed to improve symptoms. There are various spinal procedures available; the ideal surgery for you depends on your specific condition. Consult your surgeon to determine whether an ALIF is the right option for you.

What is an ALIF Like?

ALIFs are typically performed with the assistance of a vascular surgeon.  The steps of an ALIF: Supine Position


  • Patient lies on back
  • An incision is made in the abdomen
  • Muscles, organs and vascular structures are retracted to access the spine
  • The damaged portion of the disc is removed
  • A graft or bone substitute is installed between the vertebrae. Sometimes a plate and screws are used to stabilize the spine.
  • The organs and tissue are returned and the incision is closed

Spine Access



Recovery time is based on many factors, including the size of the incision, rate of healing and spinal fusion and any complications. Patients typically require several days of hospital rest before they are able to return home. Returning to work may take 3 to 6 weeks, though each case will vary. Keep in close contact with your spinal surgeon to plan your recovery schedule.


Remove Spine Damage



Risks and Complications

Risks and complications between patients vary. Any spinal surgery has potential risk of infection, nerve damage, bleeding, clots, bowel and bladder problems and risks associated with anesthesia. Every case is individual and risks should be discussed with your spinal surgeon.
Anterior Lumbar
If you would like to learn more about ALIFs or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.