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What is Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

Spinal fusion is a surgical technique that joins two or more vertebrae in the spine to minimize the pain caused by the movement of these vertebrae. The fusion of vertebrae in the lumbar portion of the spine is called lumbar fusion. This surgery can be performed as an open or minimally invasive procedure.

Different Techniques of Lumbar Interbody Fusion

Several techniques are practiced for minimally invasive surgery, which includes:

  • Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF): accessing the spine from the front
  • Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF): approaching the spine from the back
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF): approaching the spine from the side

Indications of Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

A minimally invasive lumbar fusion technique is used to treat:

  • Fractured vertebra
  • Lumbar instability
  • Scoliosis or kyphosis
  • Cervical disc hernias
  • Tumors
  • Back pain
  • Failed back syndrome
  • Spondylolisthesis

What is Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

In PLIF, several 1-2-inch incisions are made on the back, a series of increasingly larger dilators are used to spread the muscles apart and provide access to the spine. The rods and screws are placed through the dilator tubes. In some cases, an operating microscope may be used to provide a better view.

During the surgery, a piece of bone harvested from another part of the body or collected from a bone bank is transplanted between the adjacent vertebrae. As healing occurs, the bone fuses with the spine. This stimulates the growth of a solid mass of bone, which helps in stabilizing the spine. In some cases, metal implants such as rods, hooks, wires, plates or screws are used to hold the vertebra firm until new bone grows between them.

Advantages of Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

The minimally invasive technique of fusion carries many advantages which include:

  • Minimal damage to the adjacent tissues
  • Reduced postoperative pain
  • Reduced hospital stay
  • Faster recovery
  • Diminished blood loss
  • Health Science Center
  • Mercy
  • Northwell Health
  • The Dartmouth Institute