Axial Lumbar Interbody Fusion, also known as AxiaLIF surgery, is a minimally invasive approach to the traditional lumbar fusion procedure. This newer approach provides a simpler and less invasive access to the fifth lumbar vertebra (L5) and the first sacral (S1) vertebra. AxiaLIF surgery is commonly performed in people with degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and low grade spondylolisthesis. AxiaLIF is used to restore disc height, decompress the nerves and stabilize your spine.
Before the surgery, your doctor will explain the surgical procedure to you. You may also be ordered a few blood tests, X-rays, or other imaging tests to evaluate your medical condition. You will require a health clearance from your physician for the surgery.
The procedure is performed under general anesthesia and fluoroscopic guidance. You will lie face up, on the operating table, as your surgeon will access the lower spine through the abdomen. X-rays are taken to confirm the precise level of the herniated disc. The surgeon makes a 1-inch incision in the abdominal skin over the lower spinal segment, to access your L5-S1 disc space. The damaged disc is then identified and removed. A bone graft, either from the patient’s own body (autograft) or from a donor (allograft), is then placed in the prepared disc space. An AxiaLIF implant, a titanium alloy rod, will also be inserted to restore the disc height between L5 and S1. The incision is closed and covered with a dressing.
Sometimes the AxiaLIF surgery may be coupled with posterior spinal fixation, wherein pedicle screws or facet screws are used to stabilize your low back.
You will be transferred to the recovery room and your vital signs will be monitored by the medical staff. You may also be advised to wear a back brace to provide support and limit motion during the healing process. You may experience slight discomfort, pain at the incision site, neck muscle spasms, or other related symptoms after the surgery.
You need to keep the incision site clean and dry. Avoid hot tubs, swimming, heavy lifting, driving, and smoking. You may begin physical therapy, as instructed and directed by your surgeon. Take medications as prescribed by your doctor. Schedule a follow-up appointment with your surgeon.
The potential risks associated with AxiaLIF surgery may include infection, bleeding, nerve injury, and problems with anesthesia.
Call your doctor if you develop fever with a temperature beyond 101° F or the incision shows signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pain, or variation in the amount and odor of the drainage. Bowel and bladder dysfunction or numbness over the genital area needs to be reported to the doctor immediately.