ALIF - Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

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Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Overview

What is Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)?

ALIF stands for Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion. It is a common spinal surgery during which the spine is approached from the front through the abdomen. In lumbar spinal fusion surgery, there is an angle taken when the surgeon gains access to the spine from an anterior (Abdominal) approach. After the removal of a disc, the pressure on the nerves is relieved.

ALIF Can Be Used to Treat These Conditions:

  • Bulging Disc
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Disc Tear
  • Failed Back & Neck Surgery
  • Facet Joint Syndrome
  • Foraminal Stenosis

Risks of the lumbar fusion surgery

Any surgery has a number of potential risks and complications, which is also true for anterior lumbar interbody fusion. The most important thing is to discuss possible risks with your medical team, as they can assess your condition, and the exact characteristics of the surgery needed, and so will be able to convey your personal potential risks. Such information will allow you to make a good and informed decision.

The risks and complications include excess bleeding during or after surgery, blood clots, as well as infections.

Some of the risks are more common than others, for example, many patients experience persistent postsurgical pain or weakness in muscles. Also, some patients don’t respond to anesthesia that well, which can result in future problems. Moreover, there can be some nerve damage. For instance, you can have temporary nerve swelling or even worse, a nerve injury.

Remember that this is the list of potential risks, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experience them. Spine surgeries are quite routine surgeries that truly bring pain relief for many patients, so if you hesitate to visit a doctor, you only prolong the pain that you already have. Moreover, proper treatment reduces the chance of symptoms worsening.

The spinal fusion recovery process

The anterior lumbar interbody fusion recovery may differ based on the patient’s individual conditions. The state of a person’s health, the success rate of the surgery, and the characteristics of the exact condition all play a role in the recovery process.

In general, anterior lumbar interbody fusion offers a relatively faster and smoother recovery period.

Most patients are able to walk immediately after the surgery, however, they don’t return home the same day after the procedure.

The spinal fusion recovery takes about 6-12 weeks to return to normal daily activities.

During the recovery time, you should strictly follow the guidelines. Typically, you shouldn’t shower for a day or two, you should also avoid applying lotion to the incision.

In some cases, patients are prescribed a neck brace. Such a brace helps control neck movements. Usually, a doctor will give instructions on the duration of wearing the brace. Moreover, it is highly recommended that you quit smoking. Not only does smoking affect your respiratory system, but also it slows down the recovery process, and it increases the chance of complications.

Try not to sit or lie for long periods other than during sleep, you should stand up and move frequently.

Follow basic post-surgery hygiene rules: don’t sleep with your pets, wash your linens as often as possible, and wear clean clothes.

Back fusion surgery aftercare

The general recovery after back fusion surgery takes about 6-12 weeks. It is usually not recommended to return to work earlier. If your job includes physical work, the recovery time can be even longer.

It is typically advised to walk, as it speeds up tissue recovery. Such moderate activity also prevents the patient from future complications.

Remember to consult with your doctor if you want to take anything other than your prescribed medications, as some medications might need to be avoided.

Among other things that are not recommended during the recovery period are jogging, riding a bicycle, lifting objects or small children, and having intense aerobic training.

Moreover, it is also advised that you do not drive for a couple of weeks after surgery.

Once again, the exact characteristics of your recovery period will depend on your condition and some procedures during the surgery.

Prevention of back issues

As with any condition, it is much easier to prevent back issues than suffer from pain. In this section, the most effective preventive means are gathered, so feel free to incorporate those into your daily life.

Exercising in particular and physical activity, in general, are very important for several body systems, including muscular-skeletal. Proper exercises can strengthen your back muscles, that support and protect the spine. Regular stretching also helps with stiff muscles and decreases the chance of sprains and strains.

A balanced diet with enough Calcium and Zinc intake can strengthen bones. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces increased pressure on your back, so you should keep this in mind. Even though everyone knows that it is critical to have a healthy diet, few people actually follow dietary recommendations.

Among other back-friendly habits is sleeping on your side rather than on your back. Sleeping on your back puts excess pressure on the lower back. If you don’t feel like sleeping on your side, at least put a pillow under your knees, this simple act can reduce the amount of pressure on the lower back. Also, choosing a good mattress and a pillow can influence the way you sleep. Large pillows can cause strained neck muscles.

As with sleeping positions, standing and sitting are also important, so mind your posture. If a person has bad posture, nerves located in the neck and shoulders can be suppressed. So, try to make a habit of practicing good posture, and you’ll prevent some of the problems. Also, even if you have good posture, you should move your body frequently throughout the day. For example, you can move your shoulders and neck to relax them.

Speaking about poses, you probably spend most of your time working or studying, and it usually means a sedentary lifestyle. Investing in a good chair and proper-height table can benefit your health, especially spine health, a lot. It is also better for your eyes.

Choosing comfort over style is true in spine-friendly fashion. A fashionable bag may look better, but it puts pressure on one side of your body. A backpack can help you distribute the pressure. So, if you have to carry your laptop or books around, opt for a backpack.

Reducing stress and learning stress-managing techniques, including meditation, yoga and other breathing methods, can improve your mood and lower muscle tension. Last but not least is lifting things. Choosing proper techniques while performing tasks can improve your muscles' state and cut the chance of a back injury. For instance, you can lift things by squatting rather than bending. You can learn techniques online or ask your doctor about the proper way of performing tasks.

Preventative measures can cut the chance of developing spine conditions and pain, so introducing some healthy habits into your life can be very beneficial for your overall state.

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