Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion


What Is A PLIF?

PLIF (Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion) is a type of spinal fusion procedure used to treat conditions of the lumbar spine.  The approach for this procedure is directly over the midline of the spine in the region of the damaged spinal discs.  A PLIF is often indicated for those with degenerative disc conditions who also may be experiencing compression of the spinal nerve due to overgrowths of the facet joints or bone spurs in the lamina.  

The goal of this procedure is to remove the spinal disc and/or bone spurs that are causing irritation of the spinal nerves and use internal fixation to stabilize the spine and relieve the pain associated with lumbar spinal conditions.  This procedure is often simultaneously combined with what is known as a “laminectomy”, which is performed utilizing a single incision for both procedures.

How is a PLIF Performed?

First, an incision is made directly above the injured spinal disc or vertebrae and the muscles surrounding the spine are gently removed from the lamina.  Next, a small piece of the lamina is removed so that the surgeon can visualize the spinal nerves and structures.  If necessary, small portions of the facet joints may be trimmed as well.  The removal of the lamina and trimming of the facet joints is used to create a larger space for the nerve roots of the spine and reduce irritation of these nerves.

Once the nerve roots are identified and safely moved to the side, the intervertebral disc is removed.  Small implants, which contains bone graft, are placed into the empty disc space to restore normal height and stability to the spine.  This bone graft implant creates a biological response and, over time, this bone graft will knit together with the adjoining vertebrae and form one contiguous and stable vertebra.

Next, small metal rods and screws are implanted between the two vertebrae to ensure stability.  The incision is then closed with small stitches.