Interbody fusion is a type of spinal fusion which involves removing the disc between the problem vertebrae. During an anterior interbody fusion, your surgeon will approach the problem vertebra from the lower back, through the front of the body, creating an incision in the abdomen.
The surgeon may choose to approach from the front or the anterior for a number of reasons, the most common being:
- For those that have had previous incisions made in the posterior (along the back).
- More direct access to the intervertebral discs.
- To have the ability to add more lordosis (swayback) to your spine.
- Can make for a faster recovery process.
- Allows the surgeon to reach the spine without moving the nerves.
- Avoids painful incisions being made to the lower back muscles.
A small incision is made into the abdomen. Because of the placement at the anterior of the body, often blood vessels, and organs must be moved somewhat so that the surgeon may reach the intervertebral disc. The damaged disc is then removed, along with any bone spurs or other abnormalities, relieving the pain and pressure put on the spinal nerves.
A spacer is then put in between the two vertebrae, to allow for normal alignment of the spine and to fill the space left by the disc. The body’s natural restorative processes will help fill the spacer and its surrounding area with bone, and a thin titanium plate is inserted onto the front surface of the spine, helping to maintain spinal stability and proper spinal alignment.