What is Spine Fusion?

Minimally Invasive Fusion

Minimally invasive spine fusions are used to correct a number of spinal problems. They are only used if other non-surgical methods have failed in relieving pain.

By joining bone with bone graft or other artificial material, the fusion process “tricks” the body into thinking it has a fracture. Once completed, the spinal fusion process has many effects: new bone grows around the bone graft spacer; the vertebrae join/fuse together; spine stability increases; and pain in the spine area is reduced.

Performed by themselves, spinal fusions are used to treat:

  • Spinal canal narrowing
  • Spinal compression and spinal cord squeezing
  • Spine Fractures
  • Spine Instability
  • Age-related spinal problems

Spinal fusions can also be performed in combination with, or after other surgeries, such as ALIF and ACDF. Used in conjunction with other procedures, fusions are used to treat procedures including:

  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Infections and tumors

Where are Spine Fusions Performed?

Minimally invasive fusions can be performed on vertebrae throughout the neck and back. They involve a small incision, typically less than an inch long, which is suture-less (no stitches to remove after the surgery). The incision made depends on the surgery performed, which depends on the area of the pain experienced. For example, the incision for an Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) surgery is made near the belly button, while the incision for an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) is made in the throat area.

Types of Spine Fusions

  • Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)

    An Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF) is performed in the anterior (front) part of the spine in an incision made near the belly button. The procedure relieves pressure in the spinal / lumbar region, and ultimately increases stability. ALIF procedures are typically performed when multiple discs must be fused together.

  • Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)

    Similar to an ALIF, the incision for an ACDF is made in the anterior part of the spine. However, unlike an ALIF, an Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion is used to stabilize the spine in the neck area.
    An ACDF is different from other fusion surgeries because a discectomy – a surgery to remove herniated or degenerative disc – is performed at the same time as a fusion, to increase stability in the region.

  • Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)

    A Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF) is performed in the posterior part of the spine, in an incision made through the back. Dr. Valente relieves any pain by working under the nerves to the neural foramin (hence the term “transforaminal”.) The procedure fuses the anterior (front0 and posterior (back) columns of the spine, and the two columns are stabilized by bone graft and small screws.

  • eXtreme Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF)

    Where other fusion surgeries are performed in an incision made through the front of the back, an eXtreme Lumbar Interbody Fusion (XLIF) is performed in an incision made through the patient’s side. Though it cannot be used to treat all conditions, for the conditions it CAN treat, it is superior to other interbody fusions; it doesn’t require major organs to be moved in the same way an ALIF does, and there is no cutting or tearing of muscle that may occur, like with a TLIF.

Why are Spine Fusions Used?

There is less operative time, less anesthesia, and less blood loss with minimally invasive fusion surgeries than with other surgical methods to relieve your back or neck pain. Muscle fibers, ligaments, and tendons are meticulously preserved, and there are no sutures (stitches) to remove after. Fusions are also commonly performed as outpatient or overnight stays, allowing you to return to work – and to your pain-free lifestyle – than traditional surgery.

How are Fusions Performed?

  1. A minimally invasive fusion surgery begins with a small incision at the location of the surgery.
  2. Valente and his assistant work together to access the spine.
  3. The degenerative disc / bone spurs are removed, relieving pressure in the spine area.
  4. The bone is joined to bone graft, starting the fusion process.
  5. Over time, the bone will grow / fuse into the bone graft, stabilizing the spine at that segment.
  6. A small titanium plate and screws are used to hold the bone graft in place.
  7. The patient will experience increased comfort and decreased pain, and will be able to walk a few hours after the surgery.
Hospital Stay

Hospital Stay


Typically 1-3 nights in the hospital.

Surgery Type

Surgery Type

Minimally Invasive

Incisions are typically 1 inch long.

Blood Loss

Blood Loss


This procedure will cause minimal blood loss with limited tissue disruption.

Recovery Time

Recovery Time

Hours to weeks

Up and walking hours after surgery. Return to work approximately 4 weeks after surgery. No twisting, bending or heavy lifting for 3 months after the surgery.

Surgery Time

Surgery Time


The procedure is approximately 30 – 90 minutes.

Not all patients and procedures are the same. The above is an example of what the typical patient can expect from some minimally invasive procedures.

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