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Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery offers life-changing benefits to children with cerebral palsy

Posted: 01/06/2017


Around 25 – 30% of children born with cerebral palsy have spastic diplegia which results in excessive stiffness or spasticity in the leg muscles, impairing their ability to walk. Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery (SDR) aims to ease muscle spasticity, improving mobility and quality of life for children with cerebral palsy. SDR is not a cure for cerebral palsy, but has the potential to provide substantial benefits to many children and ease the strain on their families.

The surgery involves cutting nerves in the lower spine that are responsible for muscle rigidity. Typically the best results are seen following treatment of children between the ages of four and ten years old.

Evidence shows that SDR treatment can lead to the following outcomes for children with cerebral palsy:

  • long-term reduction in spasticity
  • improved function and mobility
  • increased independence
  • increased range of motion
  • improved positioning

Research studies have indicated that the benefits of SDR continue for many years after surgery. Although SDR may not rule out the need for orthopaedic surgery at a later date, a reduction in the need for these procedures after early SDR has been shown.

NHS funding for SDR surgery has been very limited while it examines its effectiveness, with a final report on funding for future treatment due in the autumn of 2018. In the meantime, many families have resorted to raising thousands of pounds in order for their child to have SDR surgery and/or to support pre- and post-operative physiotherapy. 

Partner Alison Appelboam Meadows, who leads the cerebral palsy team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “When we assist families with claims on behalf of children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy following sub-standard medical care, we consider what treatment may benefit those children. Where the costs of this treatment cannot be met fully or otherwise by the NHS, we will seek to include claims for the cost of the treatment in the clinical negligence proceedings.”

The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches is experienced in dealing with birth injury, cerebral palsy and paediatric cases. If you have any concerns or queries about the medical care you or one of your family have received, please contact our specialist team for advice.


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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

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