AxiaLif: Less Invasive Low Back Fusion 

AxiaLIF® means Axial Lumbar Interbody Fusion. It is an alternative to traditional open and minimally invasive low back surgery performed to treat degenerative disc disease (DDD), spinal stenosis, or low grade spondylolisthesis at L5-S1. In some patients, these disorders may lead to spinal instability and pain. The procedure involves implanting the AxiaLIF device (a short threaded rod) after the center of the disc is removed from between the last lumbar vertebra and the sacrum (L5-S1).

AxiaLIF provides anterior spinal stabilization – that means the spine is immobilized at the front of the spine. It can be combined with posterior fusion; that means using instrumentation (screws and rods) implanted in the back of spine.

What is L5-S1?

The low back consists of bones, discs, nerves, ligaments, and other soft tissues. There are 5 bones called vertebral bodies in the lumbar spine. These bones are abbreviated L1 (top) through L5 (bottom). Immediately below the last lumbar vertebral body is the sacrum, a part of the pelvis. The disc levels are also abbreviated. For example, L5-S1 refers to the intervertebral disc between the fifth vertebral body and the first sacral level.

Degenerative Disc Disease – Spondylolisthesis

Degenerative Disc Disease, spinal stenosis, and low-grade spondylolisthesis are spinal problems that may compress nerve roots within the spinal canal. Compression or pinching of the L5-S1 nerve structures may result in low back, buttock, and leg pain. Other neurologic symptoms may include numbness, tingling, and weakness in one or both legs.

Not every patient with lumbar degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or low-grade spondylolisthesis requires spine surgery. Dr. Stieber may recommend AxiaLIF for the following reasons: non-operative treatment fails to relieve symptoms, progressive worsening of neurologic symptoms or pain, spinal instability, and/or neurological problems. Numbness, loss of function, and weakness are examples of neurologic dysfunction.

About the AxiaLIF Procedure

Video: Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion
Click below to view a video from our library about this procedure.

Axial lumbar interbody fusion is performed under general anesthesia. The low back area is cleansed and prepared for surgery. A one-inch incision is made next to the tailbone. Through the incision, special instruments are guided by surgical imaging techniques, and the center of the disc is removed. Bone graft fills the vacant disc space. The AxiaLIF device, a short threaded rod, is implanted upward, restores lost disc height, and stabilizes the spine.

Types of Bone Graft

  • Autograft is the patient’s own bone, usually taken from the hip.
  • Allograft is donor bone from a bone bank.
  • Bone graft substitutes are of different types, some of which are synthetic (man-made) and available in different shapes.

After Surgery

After surgery, the patient is moved into the recovery area. In recovery, nurses and other medical team members closely monitor the patient’s vital signs – pulse, respiration, blood pressure, and pain. Some post-operative pain should be expected, and patients receive pain medication either through their IV (intravenous line) or by mouth. Many patients go home the same day or the day after surgery. Dr. Stieber discusses the likelihood of hospitalization with patients before their surgery date.

After Care at Home

Dr. Stieber provides AxiaLIF patients with information about what to expect and self-care after hospital discharge. This information includes instructions to control pain, medications, diet, and managing constipation, bathing and incision care, activity restrictions, and surgical follow-up appointments. As always, Dr. Stieber and his staff welcome questions and ensure that all patient concerns are thoroughly addressed.