× Contact
(866) 590-0601

Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)

What Is a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion of the Spine?

Your intervertebral discs provide cushioning and allow flexibility in your spine. A posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) is a spine surgery to remove a damaged disc in your lower or lumbar spine. Your spine doctor performs the procedure from the back or posterior. After removing the diseased or damaged spinal disc, a top surgeon then performs a spinal fusion surgery to stabilize your spine.

The term interbody fusion refers to a technique for replacing your damaged disc with a bone spacer that helps maintain your normal height. For this procedure, the surgeon uses a posterior angle for the surgery. The bone fusion prevents the two joined vertebrae from moving, which limits your flexibility, but eliminates the chronic back pain you used to feel.

Millions of people suffer lower back pain, which reduces their quality of life by limiting their participation in their favorite activities. Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability. If you’re suffering, visit the spinal specialists at Premier Brain & Spine. They use the latest technology to perform PLIF and other delicate spinal surgeries, treating a wide range of spinal conditions, such as:

What Does PLIF Spinal Surgery Treat?

Posterior lumbar interbody fusion is rarely a first option. Any spinal fusion surgery is usually recommended after other treatments have failed to produce satisfactory results. A PLIF surgery addresses such conditions as:

  • Degenerative disc disease. Your spine is prone to wear-and-tear, which takes place in your soft spinal discs. This is the main reason to perform PLIF surgery to remove a damaged disc.
  • Herniated disc. A herniated, bulged, slipped or ruptured disc makes the gel-like nucleus spill out when outer harder shell cracks or tears. The pressure causes nerve compression or irritation, resulting in excruciating pain. With a posterior lumbar interbody fusion procedure, your NJ spinal surgeon removes the herniated disc and joins the remaining lower vertebra to the upper one.
  • Spinal compression fractures. Spinal fractures weaken the bones in your spine, which may damage a disc. By removing the damaged disc and fusing the spinal bones, your surgeon provides a long-term solution for your lower back pain.
  • Scoliosis and kyphosis. These are deformities that affect your spinal curvature. A major cause of these deformities is the degeneration of the spinal disc between vertebral bones, which a PLIF surgery addresses.
  • Spinal weakness or instability. If you’ve suffered a spinal infection or you have spinal tumors, a posterior lumbar interbody fusion can alleviate your chronic pain by boosting your spine’s stability.
  • Spondylolisthesis. This is a spinal condition where vertebral bones collapse into each other, causing life-altering lower back pain. PLIF may be a solution.
  • Spinal nerve compression. PLIF surgery is effective treating spinal conditions that cause nerve damage. If you have recurrent disc herniation accompanied by symptoms of radiculopathy, spinal stenosis and back pain, your doctor may recommend PLIF surgery.

Posterior lumbar interbody fusion is one of the most advanced spinal surgeries. It requires specialized skills and technology. Your doctor at the NY and NJ spine center at Premier Brain & Spine relies on advanced diagnostic and treatment equipment. The spine care center has nine NJ locations and one NY office to provide the best care for your back.

What Is the Procedure for Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion?

The exact steps of your PLIF procedure depends on your diagnosis. It takes approximately three to six hours. The main steps involved in this spinal surgery include:

    1. Preparation. Before the surgery, your doctor discusses every detail and confirms the medications you need to stop using. Tobacco smoking prevents healing, so you have to quit before and after the surgery.
    2. Sedation. You’re given general anesthesia, so you sleep during the procedure. You won’t feel any pain.
    3. Incision. You lie on your stomach and the doctor’s assistant cleans and sterilizes the site of incision in your lower back over the disc to be removed. Your doctor makes a longitudinal incision. Your doctor retracts the nerve roots, muscles and other tissues to prevent damage.
    4. PLIF surgery. With the tissues out of the way, your doctor performs a laminectomy to see and access your spine. Using a posterior access, your doctor removes the intervertebral disc.
    5. Spacing. Your doctor uses distractor tools to restore your spine to its original height. After measuring the size of the spacer required for the bone fusion process, your surgeon places a bone graft or an artificial spacer into the gap left by the damaged spinal disc.
    6. Stabilization. For enhanced stability, the doctor fits in metal rods and screws through the upper and lower vertebral bodies. The fasteners reduce mobility of the bones and promote fusion.
    7. Closing. After surgery, your surgeon returns the retracted spinal tissues and closes the incision with some strong sutures for the deeper skin layers.

This spinal procedure has a life-changing impact. After your bones fuse together, you can enjoy a pain-free life with a stable spine. Your spinal surgeon closely monitors the progress in the days, weeks and months following the surgery to make sure you’re healing properly.

What Can I Expect While Recovering from a PLIF Surgery?

Follow your surgeon’s post-op instructions carefully to give yourself the best chance of success. Some expectations during your recovery include:

  • Working with a physical therapist. You likely need a physical therapist to help you overcome any initial discomfort and build back your strength. You learn how to take care of your back when waking up and walking.
  • Spine support. Your doctor may require you to wear a back brace temporarily to support your back.
  • Medication. Take the medication prescribed by your doctor, including pain drugs and antibiotics, as directed.
  • Incision care. To prevent infection, keep your incision covered with a dry gauze bandage secured with tape. Change the bandage every one or two days. Avoid direct contact with water when showering.
  • Return to work. After two to three weeks, you can perform light tasks, but you still must avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activities. You can drive after about two weeks after the pain and discomfort disappears.
  • Doctor’s follow-up. Don’t miss your doctor’s follow-up appointments. When ready, the stitches are removed, and your doctor examines the incision. After about two months, your doctor has another appointment to check the progress of the spinal fusion.

If you’re suffering from persistent back pain that’s affecting your life, it’s time to take back control of your life. Contact the spinal specialists at Premier Brain & Spine for effective treatment of your spinal conditions.

Updated on Jul 27, 2022 by Dr. David Wells-Roth (Neurosurgeon) of Premier Brain & Spine

Premier Brain & Spine
10 Parsonage Rd, Suite 208A
Edison, NJ 08837
(732) 258-0190