Overview and Indications
Posterior Lumbar Fusion (PLF) is the general term used to describe the technique of surgically mending two or more lumbar spine bones together along the sides of the bone. Bone graft is placed along side the spine bones (not in between the disc spaces as in an interbody fusion and ultimately fused together. PLF may be performed in conjunction with or without a posterior decompression (laminectomy) and/or the use of metal screws/rods. Typically, metal screws and rods are placed so as to impart immediate stability while the bone mends.
PLF is commonly performed for a variety of spinal conditions, such as spondylolisthesis, spinal fractures, tumors, infections and scoliosis, among others.
Most patients are usually able to go home two to five days after surgery. Before patients go home, physical therapists and occupational therapists work with patients and instruct them on proper techniques of getting in and out of bed and walking independently. Patients are instructed to avoid bending at the waist, lifting more than five pounds and twisting in the early postoperative period (first two to four weeks) to avoid a strain injury. Patients can gradually begin to bend, twist and lift after four to six weeks as the pain subsides and the back muscles get stronger.
Patients are generally not required to wear a back brace after surgery. Patients may be issued a soft or rigid lumbar corset that can provide additional lumbar support in the early postoperative period, if necessary. Patients undergoing multilevel fusion surgery for scoliosis, kyphosis, spinal infections or tumors are typically issued a custom molded thoracolumbar brace.