Selective dorsal rhizotomy in children

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Selective dorsal rhizotomy is a neurosurgical treatment for leg spasticity—increased muscle tone and tightness that limits leg movement. This operation is sometimes recommended for children with spasticity from cerebral palsy when other treatments, like physical therapy and Botox injections, are no longer helping.

The goal of the operation is to increase mobility and encourage independent walking. Many children can transition from walkers to crutches or canes and avoid the need for other surgical procedures.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery works by calming down an over-active feedback loop between the motor nerves and sensory nerves that run between the spinal cord and the leg muscles. Our surgeons make a small incision in the lower back and cut some of the sensory nerves close to where they enter the lower spinal cord.

We use the term "selective" because only the nerves that are most abnormal are cut. We closely monitor muscle responses during the operation to ensure that the correct nerves are targeted. This allows us to reduce the excess muscle tone without affecting sensation in the child’s legs.

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