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Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a surgical procedure that approaches the spine through an incision in the abdomen. The affected disk space is removed from the spine and replaced with a bone graft. The goal of the procedure is to stimulate the vertebral bones to fuse. This fusion creates a rigid, immovable column of bone in the problem section of the spine. Titanium screws and a plate are inserted into the front of the spine to add stability.
ALIF is similar to posterior lumbar interbody fusion except during ALIF the disk space is fused by approaching the spine through the abdomen rather than the lower back.
The advantage with ALIF is that the back muscles and nerves remain undisturbed. Another advantage is that placing the bone graft in the front of the spine compresses it, and compressed bone fuses better. A disadvantage of ALIF is that it is difficult to perform in patients with large stomach areas or calcified blood vessels.