Posterior spinal fusion surgery can be used to treat neck pain (Posterior Cervical Fusion, PCF) or lower back pain (Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion, PLIF). Like the newer TLIF technique, PLIF is designed to treat the pain caused by the movement of the spinal vertebrae.
In this surgery, the surgeon cuts through (and later repairs) the muscles of the neck or back to access the vertebra to be treated. Upon reaching the spine, the laminae at multiple levels are removed and facet joints may also be trimmed or removed to visualize the nerve roots. The intervertebral disc is then removed to decompress the nerve roots, and a spacer with bone graft is inserted into the disc space. Two or more vertebrae are fused together to prevent motion, thus alleviating pain. Posterior spinal fusion is typically used to treat degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis. The TLIF procedure has become more commonly used than PLIF to treat the lumbar spine due to its decreased risk of injury and other complications.