Lumbar (Low Back) Pain PLIF Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion Surgery

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PLIF for Lumbar Pain

A Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF) consists of using bone graft (a surgical procedure that replaces missing bone) to illicit a response from the body that will cause the bone between two vertebrae to grow. This is done to stop the motion between the two bone segments, which is causing lumbar pain.

Lumbar Pain Treatments – Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

When chronic back pain does not respond to medication or other non-surgical treatments, posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) may be recommended. It is used for serious low back problems like degenerative discs and spondylolisthesis. This surgical technique fuses the lumbar spine bones in an effort to stabilize the spine and prevent it from causing low back pain.

Is PLIF the Right Lumbar Pain Treatment for You?

PLIF, or posterior lumbar interbody fusion, is a type of spine surgery that uses an incision in the back of the patient to fuse the lumbar spine bones. It’s most often used when one or more spinal levels need to be fused. It involves placing bone graft spacers, and is used for various painful back conditions like degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis.  The procedure is done under general anesthesia.

Prior to the surgery, the surgeon will require an MRI and CAT scan in order to determine the size of the material that will be used. The operation includes an incision where the spinal muscles are separated, allowing access to the spine. The surgeon will remove any obstacle to the nerves. The affected lumbar disc is removed, allowing the surgeon to add the bone graft, allograft, or cage. The bone graft will allow for fusion, which causes two bones to grow together into one solid bone. Fusion cages are screws filled with bone graft. They assist with the fusion by helping the spine heal together.

Finally, the wound is washed out using a solution of sterile water and antibiotics, and the area is closed with strong sutures. The patient will recover in the hospital, and the wound dressing will be changed daily.

The PLIF operation usually takes a minimum of three hours, and may take as many as six, depending on how many vertebrae or levels of the lumbar spine are involved.

The patient can usually go home in anywhere from three to five days after the surgery. Beforehand, occupational and physical therapists will work with the patient to ensure that he or she can get in and out of bed and walk properly without risking damage to the treated area. The patient must not bend at the waist, and should not lift anything weighing more than five pounds for at least two weeks. At the 4-6 week point, bending and twisting may be attempted with caution and only on the advice of the spine surgeon who has cleared the patient for such activities. The use of a back brace is not usually required, but a soft lumbar corset may be recommended as a means of lumbar support after surgery.

The results of PLIF surgery are usually excellent, the procedure having a success rate of anywhere from 90-96% resolution of the underlying condition that is causing the lumbar pain.

At a Glance: PLIF as a Lumbar Pain Treatment

  • Posterior interbody infusion (PLIF) is a procedure that fuses lumbar spine bones together in order to stabilize the spine
  • PLIF surgery has a high success rate
  • PLIF is intended for patients with low back pain caused by an underlying condition that hasn’t resolved with conservative treatments
  • Recovery from PLIF may require occupational or physical therapy

Health Tips For Back

  • Back conditions that require PLIF cannot usually be prevented, but that doesn’t mean that good back health principles shouldn’t be followed – exercise regularly
  • Try to distribute the weight on both sides of your body, and remember to lift with your legs.
  • Exercise caution on slippery surfaces to avoid falls and traumatic spine injuries
  • Use a lumbar pillow if your low back hurts at night and makes sleeping difficult

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