Ending Spasticity In Children With Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy
12.12.2018

Spasticity experienced by children with cerebral palsy or other neurological disorders impacts every aspect of daily life. This condition is caused by a dysfunctional signal that loops between the brain, spinal cord and nerves. This causes muscle tightness in the legs and arms, which can be painful, limit range of motion, and make it difficult to sit or accomplish other simple tasks. The pediatric neurosurgeons of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates have experience providing complex surgical solutions to decrease spasticity, relieve pain and allow patients to have a more active life.

Conservative treatments for spasticity, such as physical modalities, medications and Botox, should always be considered prior to surgery. Even when surgery is determined to be necessary, consistent and intensive physical therapy is essential to long-term patient success.

One surgical technique involves implanting a programmable and refillable baclofen pump to help control the overstimulation of motor nerves that causes spasticity. This pump delivers medication directly to the areas of the spinal cord where it is needed to loosen muscles and prevent spasms.

A Permanent Solution For Spasticity

Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is a surgical procedure that can provide a permanent reduction in spasticity and improved mobility in the lower extremities. This surgery is most often performed on children between the ages of 3 and 12, and can take four to five hours.

During SDR, sensory nerves in the spine are tested to determine which ones are misfiring and causing the muscles to tighten. Nerves that are not working properly are cut. Because the severed nerves do not grow back, SDR is a one-time procedure and the results are permanent. This differs from implantable baclofen pumps, which often require additional surgeries and ongoing maintenance. Patients who undergo SDR still require intensive postoperative physical therapy to gain strength and mobility.

“The results of selective dorsal rhizotomy can be truly life changing for these young patients and their families,“ said Sarah Jernigan, MD. “In addition to treating spasticity, SDR helps some patients experience improved speech, cognitive abilities and upper extremity function. To learn more about pediatric spasticity surgery or our pediatric neurosurgery services, call 800-344-6716.

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