PLIF: Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion

PLIF is generally used to treat back or leg pain caused by degenerative disc disease. The surgeon will stabilize the spine by fusing vertebrae together with bone graft material. Rural Spine provides pain treatment services to patients in the greater Rock Springs, WY area including Holdrege and Sidney, NE.

How is the procedure performed?

The procedure is performed through a three to six inch incision in the back. Pats of the vertebral bone need to be removed to get access to the disc. The damaged disc is partially removed. Some of the disc wall is left behind to help contain the bone graft material. Bone grafts are placed into the empty disc space, realigning the vertebral bones. This also lifts pressure from pinched nerve roots. The area may also be filled with morselized bone. The surgeon may implant a series of screws and rods to the back of the spine for additional support. Bone graft is also placed along the sides of the spine. The morselized bone graft will grow through and around the implants, forming a bone bridge that connects the vertebral bodies above and below. This solid bone bridge is called a fusion.

How long will it take to recover?

Patients are normally required to stay in the hospital 3-5 days after the surgery. You will work closely with a physical therapist at this time who will provide guidance on safe ways to dress, move and do physical activities. For up to 6 weeks, you will need to take caution to bending, lifting, driving and sitting for long periods of time. Recovery can be a slow process so it is important to be patient. Full recovery can take up to 8 months.

What are the risks?

As with most surgeries, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, heart attack, coma, stroke and death.

  • Risks specifically associated with a PLIF are:
  • Bone fusion failure
  • Hardware failure
  • Blot clots in legs
  • Nerve damage

When should I call my doctor?

You should call your physician if you experience:

  • A temperature of 101.1° or above.
  • Increasing redness and swelling at the incision site.
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Changes in the amount, appearance, or odor of drainage from your incision.
  • New or increased changes in sensation/presence of numbness in extremities.
  • Severe pain that is not relieved by medication and rest.
  • Problems with your walking or balance
  • Questions or problems not covered by these instructions