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Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Indications in Portland, Oregon

What is an Anterior Lumbar Fusion?

A lumbar fusion is when two or more vertebrae in the low back are fused together to create a solid bridge of bone between the vertebrae and across the disc space. A fusion is usually performed to eliminate movement between vertebrae and stabilize a painful or unstable segment of the spine. An anterior lumbar fusion approaches the spine through the abdomen to accomplish the fusion.

What Are the Indications for an Anterior Lumbar Fusion?

Anterior lumbar fusion can be used in many situations but frequently is performed to increase the chances of fusion in difficult situations, such as patients who have had prior failed posterior fusion surgery. Anterior fusion also allows for better disc height restoration in patients with collapsed discs. Anterior fusion is not as effective when there is significant spinal stenosis as it cannot directly decompress the nerve roots.

What Are the Details of an Anterior Lumbar Fusion?

After general anesthesia, an incision is made through your abdominal muscles. The surgery is then done by moving the abdominal contents over and then identifying the great vessels, called the aorta and the inferior vena cava. These are also carefully retracted over the spine. At this point, we are able to look directly at the front part of the spine and have an excellent look at the disc spaces in the spine. The disc is then removed as completely as possible and replaced by a cage, a metal or carbon fiber device, filled with bone or bone growth proteins.

How is an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Different from a Posterior Lumbar Fusion?

In a posterior lumbar fusion, the fusion is done through the back part of the spine. The muscles are dissected from the spine. The bony surfaces of the spine are exposed and small pieces of bone are laid across the back part of the spine. In an anterior fusion, the surgery is done through the front of the spine, which makes it necessary for us to go through your abdomen. In the anterior fusion, the bone graft is packed directly between the vertebral bodies. It is generally felt that if one can obtain a solid anterior fusion there is a mechanical advantage as most of the force of the spine is directed through the front part of the spine.

Dr. Button is experienced in anterior lumbar fusion and if you would like to schedule an appointment to discuss this or other procedures further, click here.

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