Selective dorsal rhizotomy for spasticity in children

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Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is a minimally invasive spinal surgery in which certain nerve fibers are cut in order to reduce spasticity in the legs. SDR is commonly performed for children with cerebral palsy and can encourage independent walking. It may be an option when other therapies, such as physical therapy or Botox injections, have stopped working.

Who will be helped most by SDR surgery?

SDR is most effective in children whose cerebral palsy is the result of being born prematurely and whose spasticity mainly affects their legs. Each child must be carefully evaluated to determine whether she qualifies for SDR. Children are most likely to benefit from the procedure if they: 

  • Have spasticity mainly in their legs.
  • Can walk on their own or with th ehelp of a walker or braces, or have the potential to do so.
  • Are physically and mentally able to participate in intensive physical therapy after the operation.
  • Are motivated and able to follow instruction

Children with spasticity in all their limbs or with a great deal of spasticity in their arms, or those who require support to sit up, may benefit less from SDR surgery, and may get more benefit from an intrathecal baclofen pump. Families should talk to their neurosurgeon and cerebral palsy care team about all available options.

SDR surgery normally takes about four hours and usually requires a child to stay in the hospital for four to five days.

Learn more about what happens during SDR surgery.

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