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Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)

Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)

A posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) is a type of spinal surgery that involves removing damaged disc material and inserting a bone graft between two vertebrae. “Posterior” refers to the method of approaching the spine from the back of the body, and “lumbar” refers to the lower region of the spine.

Why Would I Need a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

PLIFs can be minimally invasive and can be less intrusive than anterior interbody fusions (ALIFs). PLIFs are often performed for:
  • Lumbar instability
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal stenosis
Lumbar conditions that may be treated with PLIFs often exhibit the following symptoms:
  • Sciatica (pain in the lower extremities)
  • Back pain
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in lower back, hips and legs
Open Spine   Spinal surgery is normally only an option after non-surgical treatments have failed. A PLIF is one of several spinal surgeries. Consult your spinal surgeon to determine if it is the right procedure for you.


What is a PLIF Like?

Lumbar Interbody PLIFs can be minimally invasive or conducted as a traditional open surgery. In many cases, The Longstreet Clinic’s spinal surgeons are able to conduct minimally invasive PLIFs using small incisions and less intrusive techniques.
Steps of a PLIF:


  • Patient lies face down
  • An incision is made in the back over the targeted vertebra(e)
  • Muscles in the back are dilated to allow spinal access
  • The exterior “roof” of the spine (lamina) is removed
  • Nerve roots are moved aside
  • Disk material is removed
  • A bone graft and screws and rods are inserted to allow vertebral fusion
  • The nerves and muscles are returned and the incision is closed



Interbody Fusion
In the majority of cases, patients that receive minimally invasive PLIFs are able to leave the hospital in 1-2 days after surgery. Many symptoms will be alleviated immediately after surgery, and others may improve over time. Returning to work and normal activities may take several weeks, depending on various factors. Each patient’s case may vary; consult your spinal surgeon for a specific recovery plan.

Risks and Complications

Any spinal surgery carries a small risk of infection, bleeding, blood clots, nerve damage, bowel and bladder issues and complications associated with anesthesia. Consult your spinal surgeon for your potential risks.
If you would like to learn more about PLIFs or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.