Skip to Content

Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion


Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is surgery to repair vertebrae in your lower back (lumbar). In ALIF, 2 or more vertebrae are joined together using bone grafts or implants, screws, and rods. The surgery is usually done to treat disc disease. Lumbar discs cushion and separate the vertebrae in your back.



  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.
  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon as directed:

Ask when you need to return to have your wound checked and the stitches removed. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


Avoid activities that involve heavy lifting, pulling, and pushing. You may also need to limit your body movements, especially bending your back. Ask your primary healthcare provider when you can start doing your normal activities.

Bathing with stitches:

Ask when you can bathe. Do not let your stitches get wet unless your primary healthcare provider says it is okay. Gently wash the part of your body that has the stitches. Do not rub the stitches to dry your skin. Pat the area gently with a towel. When the area is dry, put on a clean, new bandage as directed.

Physical therapy:

You may need to see a physical therapist to learn special exercises. These exercises help improve movement and strength. Physical therapy can also help decrease pain.

  • Your physical therapist will fit you for a lower back brace to help the spine heal better. Ask how to care for your brace.
  • Your physical therapist may teach you exercises to do at home. These may be done alone or with the help of a family member. Do only the range of motion exercises your physical therapist suggests. Do not do other exercises. Do not do the range of motion exercises more often than directed.
  • You may be asked to do more as you get stronger and as the pain decreases.

Contact your primary healthcare provider or orthopedic surgeon if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or has a rash.
  • You have questions about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your bandage becomes soaked with blood.
  • Your incision is swollen, red, or has pus coming from it, or your stitches have come apart.
  • You fell and injured your back.
  • You have trouble having a bowel movement or passing urine.
  • Some parts of your body are numb, tingly, cool to touch, or look blue or pale.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You trouble breathing or chest pain all of a sudden.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.