Clinical outcomes after selective dorsal rhizotomy in an adult population

Matthew R. Reynolds, Wilson Z. Ray, Russell G. Strom, Spiros L. Blackburn, Amy Lee, Tae Sung Park

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Object Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) is a highly effective and well-established surgical tool for correction of lower-extremity spasticity in children with spastic diplegia caused by cerebral palsy (CP). Although the literature demonstrates considerable immediate and long-term functional benefits in children treated with SDR, the effects of SDR on adults with spastic diplegia have not been thoroughly investigated. The purpose of this retrospective study was to examine the objective and subjective clinical outcomes of SDR on an adult population. Methods We reviewed the charts of 21 consecutive adult patients who underwent SDR for treatment of CP-related spastic diplegia between the years of 1989 and 2007. All patients were treated by a single surgeon (T.S.P.) and underwent formal pre- and postoperative physical therapy assessments to examine joint range of motion (ROM), gross motor function measure (GMFM), and muscle tone. The majority of patients (15/21) exhibited preoperative ambulatory independence without an assistive device. Postoperative assessments were performed at 4 months, but most patients (11/21) had longer follow-up periods (mean, 17.6 ± 30.2 months). All patients were assessed with a telephone survey to estimate pre- and postoperative function with the Katz and Lawton Activities of Daily Living (ADL) Scale. Results After SDR surgery, patients experienced significant improvements in lower-extremity passive joint ROM (namely, decreases in hamstring and gastrocnemius tightness) as well as in GMFM crawling and kneeling scores. In addition, spasticity in all measured lower-extremity muscle groups was decreased as compared with preoperative levels. On the basis of our patient self-assessments conducted via telephone, each patient demonstrated subjective improvements in ambulatory ability, spasticity, coordination, joint ROM, pain, overall quality of life, and independence. Also, the Lawton total instrumental ADL scale scores were subjectively improved from preoperative levels. We documented no complications, including postoperative sensory deficits, in any of our patients. Conclusions Our experience suggests that SDR can be an effective treatment for CP-related spastic diplegia in ambulatory adults who are unresponsive to medical therapy and should be considered as a therapeutic option in carefully selected patients. Although our study represents the largest series of adult patients with spastic diplegia to date treated with SDR, the data collected will need to be validated in a larger, prospective clinical trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalWorld neurosurgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011


  • Adults
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Selective dorsal rhizotomy
  • Spastic diplegia


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