Dorsal Rhizotomy

Also known as: selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery, SDR surgery.

What is dorsal rhizotomy?

A dorsal rhizotomy or selective dorsal rhizotomy is a surgical procedure in which the neurosurgeon divides the dorsal roots (those nerves that transmit sensation from the muscles to the spinal cord) that lie in the spinal canal. This results in a better balance of activities of the nerve cells in the spinal cord, reducing spasticity, decreasing leg pain, improving sitting balance, and making walking easier (in selected children with cerebral palsy).

This procedure can help patients who walk using assistive devices to improve their walking ability. It can also be considered for other patients who have significant pain related to their spasticity as a “palliative” option.

Patients often need intensive rehabilitation after the surgery to achieve the best outcomes.

What happens during the procedure?

During the procedure, an incision is made in the lower back. The surgeon uncovers and tests nerve rootlets in the spine that come from the affected muscles (by removing parts of the vertebral bone) of the lower extremities, which are then cut.

All other nerve/rootlets important for movement or sensation are preserved.

Is any special preparation needed?

Dorsal rhizotomy or selective dorsal rhizotomy are complex procedures. A number of laboratory and other tests and evaluations are involved before the procedure is performed.

What are the risk factors?

Complications are relatively uncommon but include infection, leaking of cerebrospinal fluid from the wound and/or collection of the fluid below the skin, severe leg weakness, incontinence and others.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: February 05, 2020 01:04 PM

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