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Cureus. 2017 May 17;9(5):e1256. doi: 10.7759/cureus.1256.

Functional Outcomes of Childhood Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy 20 to 28 Years Later.

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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) is a surgical method used to treat childhood spastic cerebral palsy (CP). However, the effects of early SDR on functional outcomes and quality of life decades later in adulthood remains to be elucidated.


To evaluate the long-term outcomes in terms of satisfaction and mobility of adult patients who received childhood SDR.


Adult patients who received SDR in childhood were surveyed. The survey questionnaire asked about demographic information, quality of life, health outcomes, SDR surgical outcomes, ambulation, manual ability, pain, braces/orthotics, post-SDR treatment, living situation, education level, and work status.


Our study included 95 patients. The age that patients received SDR was between two and 18 years. The age at the time of survey was between 23 and 37 years (mean ± S.D., 30.2 ± 3.6 years). Post-SDR follow-up ranged from 20 to 28 years (mean ± S.D., 24.3 ± 2.2 years). Seventy-nine percent of patients had spastic diplegia, 20% had spastic quadriplegia, and one percent had spastic triplegia. Ninety-one percent of patients felt that SDR impacted positively the quality of life and two percent felt that the surgery impacted negatively the quality of life after SDR. Compared to pre-operative ambulatory function, 42% reported higher level of ambulation and 42% ambulated in the same level. Eighty-eight percent of patients would recommend the procedure to others and two percent would not. Thirty-eight percent reported pain, mostly in the back and lower limbs, with mean pain level 4.2 ± 2.3 on the Numeric Pain Rating Scale (NPRS). Decreased sensation in patchy areas of the lower limbs that did not affect daily life was reported by eight percent of patients. Scoliosis was diagnosed in 31%. The severity of scoliosis is unknown. Only three percent of them underwent spinal fusion. Fifty-seven percent of patients required some orthopedic surgery after SDR. The soft-tissue tendon lengthening procedures included lengthening on hamstrings, Achilles tendons or adductors. Out of all bone procedures, 24% of patients had hip surgery, five percent had knee surgery, and 10% had derotational osteotomies. No late side effects of SDR surgery were reported in this survey.


In our 95 adult patients who received SDR in childhood, the surgery had positive effects on the quality of life and ambulation 20-28 years later. There were no late complications of SDR 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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