Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion

Posterolateral lumbar fusion is a surgical technique that involves correction of spinal problems from the back of the spine by placing bone graft between segments in the back and leaving the disc space intact.

Minimally invasive surgical techniques may be used to perform the procedure.

What is the necessity for Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion surgery?

Patients with spinal instability in their lower back due to degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis that has not responded to other non-surgical treatment measures such as rest, physical therapy or medications may be recommended for Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion.

What is the procedure for Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion surgery?

The basic steps involved are as follows:

  • A incision is made in the skin on your back over the affected vertebrae, a separate incision over your hip may be used to harvest bone graft.
  • Muscles encircling the affected spine are retracted to gain accessibility to the spine Lamina covering the vertebra is removed to view the nerve roots.
  • Facet joints (structures that connect the vertebrae to one another) may be undercut or removed to provide more space for the nerve roots.
  • Screws and rods are fixed to stabilize the spine.
  • A drain is generally inserted to remove any haematoma.
  • Soft tissues are re-approximated and the incision is closed.

What is the recovery period for Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion surgery?

Patients who undergo PLIF are generally in hospital for six days. Patients are discharged home when they are getting themselves in and out of bed, pain is controlled, going to the bathroom by themselves and eating and drinking. At ten to fourteen days post operatively the patients are advised to visit their GP for a wound check.

Follow up is at six weeks post operatively.

What are the risks or complications of Posterolateral Lumbar Fusion surgery?

The complications include infection, nerve damage, blood clots, blood loss, bowel and bladder problems and any problem associated with anaesthesia. The underlying risk of spinal fusion surgery is failure of fusion of vertebral bone and bone graft which usually requires an additional surgery.

Discuss with your spine surgeon if you have any questions regarding the procedure.