To determine the effects of ventral cervical and selective spinal accessory nerve rhizotomy on spasmodic torticollis, 58 patients who had undergone surgery between 1979 and 1987 were reviewed retrospectively. At the time of surgery, each nerve rootlet was electrically stimulated to determine its effect on the nuchal musculature prior to sectioning. Forty-nine patients (85%) had a marked improvement in their condition, with 33 (57%) attaining an excellent result and 16 (28%) noting significant improvement. Patients complained of abnormal head posture, nuchal muscle spasms, and pain prior to surgery. Muscle spasms were completely relieved in 42 patients (72%) and markedly reduced in 10 (17%). Of the 47 patients with preoperative pain, 30 (64%) were free of their pain and eight (17%) noted that the pain was reduced in intensity and frequency. Thirty-four patients (59%) reported that their resting head posture was restored to a neutral position. The likelihood that a patient's head posture returned to normal was inversely proportional to the preoperative duration of the spasmodic torticollis. Twenty-six patients (45%) suffered mild transient difficulty with swallowing solid foods in the immediate postoperative period. In most cases these minor difficulties abated in the months following surgery.