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Cureus. 2017 Mar 5;9(3):e1077. doi: 10.7759/cureus.1077.

Beneficial Effects of Childhood Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy in Adulthood.

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Neurological Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Pediatric Neurosurgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children's Hospital.
Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children's Hospital.


 Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) has been used to treat children with spastic cerebral palsy (CP) for over three decades. However, little is known about the outcomes of childhood SDR in adults.  Objectives: 1) To study the effects of childhood SDR on the quality of life and ambulatory function in adult life. 2) To determine late side effects of SDR in adults.   Methods: Adults (> 17.9 years) who underwent SDR in childhood (2 - 17.9 years) between 1987 and 2013 were surveyed in 2015. Patients completed a survey, including questions on demographic information, quality of life, health, surgical outcomes, motor function, manual ability, pain, braces/orthotics, post-SDR treatment, living situation, education level, work status, and side effects of SDR.  Results: In our study population of 294 patients (18.0 - 37.4 years), patients received SDR during the ages of 2.0 - 17.9 years and were followed up 2.2 to 28.3 years after surgery. Eighty-four percent had spastic diplegia, 12% had spastic quadriplegia, and 4% had spastic triplegia. The majority (88%) of patients reported improved post-SDR quality of life and 1% considered the surgery detrimental. Most (83%) would recommend the procedure to others and 3% would not. However, patients who would not recommend SDR to others ambulated with a walker or were not ambulatory at all prior to SDR. The majority (83%) of patients improved (30%) or remained stable (53%) in ambulation. Twenty-nine percent of patients reported pain, mostly in the back and lower limbs, with a mean pain level of 4.4 ± 2.4 on the Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS). Decreased sensation in small areas of the lower limbs was reported by 8% of patients, though this did not affect daily life. Scoliosis was diagnosed in 28%, with 40% of these patients pursuing treatment. Whether scoliosis was related to SDR is not clear, though scoliosis is known to occur in patients with CP and also in the general population. Only 4% of patients underwent spinal fusion.  Orthopedic surgeries were pursued by 59% of patients. The most common orthopedic surgeries were hamstring lengthenings (31%), Achilles tendon lengthenings (18%), adductor lengthenings (16%), and derotational osteotomies (16%). Twenty-four percent of all patients later underwent hip surgery and 8% had surgeries on their knees.  Conclusion: Results of this study indicate that the beneficial effects of childhood SDR extend to adulthood quality of life and ambulatory function without late side effects of surgery.


adults; ambulation; cerebral palsy; quality of life; selective dorsal rhizotomy; spasticity

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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