Dr. Michael Thomas is a respected neurosurgeon who maintained a general practice in Washington state for more than 15 years. Dr. Michael Thomas recently augmented his qualifications as Board Certified Neurosurgeon through a University of Miami spine fellowship that focused on major deformity correction and minimally invasive surgical techniques. As a speaker at the AANS/CNS Joint Section for Spine and Peripheral Nerve in Phoenix in 2015, Dr. Thomas talked on the subject of anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) surgery.
First developed in the 1950s, ALIF was held back from development as a standard procedure by relatively large nonunion rates in the 30 to 40 percent range. In the 1990s, the development of threaded titanium cages, which were superior in holding the disc space, resulted in higher ALIF fusion rates. This success in turn resulted in an upsurge in ALIF treatments, which, unlike posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF), involve approaching the spine via the abdomen rather the lower back.
A main advantage of ALIF is that it leaves the nerves and muscles of the back undisturbed. Unfortunately, ALIF alone is not always adequate, and it is often undertaken in tandem with a posterior PLIF approach.