Although ALIF was first performed in the 1950s, it did not gain favor in the medical community until the 1990s, when the development of threaded titanium cages helped make the procedure much more successful. ALIF differs from other fusion surgeries in that the surgeon accesses the spine through the abdomen, a technique that is especially favored when multiple discs must be removed or if the spine needs to be fused in several places.
The anterior approach also allows the surgeon to reach the spine without having to move any nerves, and provides him or her with easier access to the intervertebral disc, which must be removed to complete the fusion. Typically, the entire procedure takes two to three hours, and most patients are able to return home from the hospital within a few days. Full recovery takes several weeks, but the majority of patients report good or excellent results from the surgery.