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J Spine Surg. 2017 Dec;3(4):587-595. doi: 10.21037/jss.2017.11.04.

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) as an option for recurrent disc herniations: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Author information

NeuroSpine Surgery Research Group, Prince of Wales Private Hospital, Sydney, Australia.
Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Randwick, Sydney, Australia.
Neuroscience Institute, Epworth Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.



Recurrent intervertebral disc herniation is a relatively common occurrence after primary discectomy for lumbar intervertebral disc herniation. For recurrent herniations after repeat discectomies, a growing body of evidence suggests that fusion is effective in appropriately selected cases. Theoretically, anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) allows for comprehensive discectomy, less trauma to spinal nerves and paraspinal muscles and avoidance of the disadvantages of repeat posterior approaches. However, ALIF has also been associated with risk of vascular injury and retrograde ejaculation. This current systematic review and meta-analysis aims to assess the viability of ALIF as a surgical treatment for recurrent disc herniations.


Seven studies were identified from six electronic databases and secondary reference lists. Pre-defined endpoints were extracted from the included studies and meta-analyzed.


For the 181 patients from included studies, ALIF resulted in significant average improvements in Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores (50.49%, P<0.001), Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) back pain scores (47.85%, P<0.001) and VAS leg pain scores (37.00%, P<0.001). Average blood loss was acceptable at 122 mL (P<0.001) and average operation duration was 89 minutes (P<0.001). Average hospital stay was 5.28 days (P<0.001). Only 22 perioperative complications were reported, with subsidence the most commonly reported complication.


Pooled evidence suggests that ALIF is a feasible approach for the treatment of recurrent disc herniations, demonstrating significant improvements in back and leg pain and minimal complications. These findings warrant further investigation in large prospective registries and multi-center studies.


Intervertebral disc disease; anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF); lumbar vertebrae; spinal fusion

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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