The anterior approach to lumbar spine fusion, termed anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), is becoming increasingly popular, with numerous recognized indications, well-defined advantages, and potential complications. From its first theoretical description in 1932 and the first operation published in 1933 to the more recently reported less invasive procedures, an anterior approach to the lumbar spine has many technical variations. Here we describe the evolution of the anterior approach to the lumbar spine, from a hugely invasive transperitoneal route to the current minimally invasive retroperitoneal approach. Many advantages have been advocated for the ALIF approach, and some issues about intraoperative and postoperative complications need to be evaluated in a more specific and homogeneous manner.
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