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Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) is an operation used to improve spasticity (muscle stiffness) in cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy occurs when a child sustains a brain injury early in life. This most often happens before birth but can happen around the time of birth and even in the first year of life. Although the brain injury is static – that is, it does not get any worse – the difficulties it causes change continuously in the growing child.

One of the most common causes of cerebral palsy is prematurity. Certain parts of the premature brain are vulnerable to damage, particularly the parts which control leg movement and co-ordination. In turn, this leads to excessive stiffness or spasticity in the leg muscles and can impair the child’s ability to learn to walk.


Spasticity also causes pain, and, over time, shortening of muscles and tendons, joint contractures and bone deformities. Spastic diplegia (which affects the leg muscles more than the arms) is the most commonly occurring type of cerebral palsy. Nerve fibres running from the muscles back to the spinal cord play a major role in maintaining this muscle stiffness. SDR, by dividing some of these fibres, is very effective at reducing stiffness and spasticity.

SDR at St Louis Hopsital

SDR At Alder Hey

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