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Microsoft word - anterior lumbar interbody fusion.doc
ANTERIOR LUMBAR INTERBODY FUSION (ALIF)
Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion is a surgical procedure where the spine is accessed through the abdomen and is
typically combined with a posterior approach. The procedure begins with a 3 to 5 inch abdominal incision. The
abdominal contents are enclosed in a large sack (peritoneum) which is moved to the side, allowing access to the
spine. A portion of the degenerated disc is then removed and a bone graft, spacer, or cage is inserted into the disc
space. The incision is then closed with sutures. Average length of the surgery is 2 hours to 4 hours depending on the
Pre-operative testing and preparations
You will be advised, if possible, to donate at least 2 units of your own blood approximately 1 month prior to your
surgery date. We will provide you with the information to schedule this appointment with the American Red
Cross. Usually, only one unit is donated at a time, so it may take you two to three visits to the blood bank to
acquire the necessary amount of blood. In some cases, family members with the same blood type may donate
instead, which is called directed donor blood. If for some reason you or your family cannot donate blood, screened
donor blood from the blood bank may be used. Prior to your surgery date, you will be required to undergo routine
laboratory tests, EKG and a chest x-ray. If you are over 50 years of age or have any history of cardiac or pulmonary
problems, you will also be required to have a clearance by a cardiologist or pulmonologist, respectively. You will
also be given information on what medications, both prescription and over the counter, that need to be
discontinued pre-operatively as many can interfere with wound healing and bleeding time.
What to expect in the hospital post-operatively
You will wake up in the recovery room after the operation is over. During this time you may be disoriented and
tired, which is the normal effects of the anesthesia wearing off. Once stable, you will be taken to your room where
you may be greeted by friends and family. At this time your pain will be controlled by IV medications and have a
catheter placed into your bladder to drain urine. Your incision will be covered by a sterile dressing which will stay
in place for 2 to 3 days. It is important to begin moving as soon as possible to prevent blood clots and speed your
recovery. The day after surgery you will be visited by a physical therapist that will assist you. It is important to use
your brace while out of bed with any activities. Over the course of your hospital stay, you will gradually increase
your activity as tolerated. Getting out of bed is also a very important step in helping your lung function return to
normal. Areas of your lungs collapse during surgery and a couple of days post-operatively, which is known as
“atelectasis”. Additionally, deep inspirations and the use of your “incentive spirometer” are essential. You may
shower after day 2 in the hospital, but it is important to keep the incision dry for 5 days. The nurse will help you
cover your wound to keep it dry or you may take a sponge bath. Patients typically stay in the hospital for 3 to 5
days. A nurse will provide a list of “do’s and don’ts” and arrange for home health or special accommodations if
necessary. Before your discharge, you will be provided with a list of “do’s and don’ts” and arrangements will be
Once you arrive home
Continue to walk with the use of aids and your brace. Slowly increase your activity level. Outpatient
physical therapy will begin 6 to 8 weeks after surgery.
You may shower, but do not soak in the bath or hot tub for 4 to 6 weeks.
Once the dressing is removed and you are informed to keep it open to the air, make sure that you protect it
from sun exposure. Once the incision is healed, sun screen should be on the incision for 6 months to one
year. This will help decrease its appearance.
Maintain a healthy diet, especially one that is high in dietary fiber to decrease constipation. Additionally, a
diet rich in protein is ideal for the healing process. Drink plenty of fluids.
Monitor your incision. It is common to have a small amount of blood and fluid leakage, however, if there
is persistent drainage contact the office. Additionally, watch for opening of the incision, redness or warmth
around the incision, or fever greater than 101ºF
No driving for 4 to 6 weeks or until advised.
No heavy lifting (greater than 5 lbs) for 4-6 weeks. No bending at the waist or twisting the back. No
jumping, running, or high-impact sports. After 2 months, appropriate exercises include: swimming,
No golfing for a minimum of 3 to 4 months.
Do not take anti-inflammatory medications (i.e. Ibuprofen, Voltaren, Aleve, Feldene, Lodine, Daypro,
Naproxen, Naprosyn, Relafen, and Motrin) for 3 months
after the surgery as this may inhibit bone fusion.
Smoking also interferes with bone fusion; therefore patients who smoke should make every attempt to stop smoking before surgery. If you need additional assistance, contact 1-800-NO-BUTTS for free information.
11190 Warner Avenue, Suite 310, Fountain Valley, CA 92708 | 714.979.2401
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