Selective dorsal rhizotomy: efficacy and safety in an investigator-masked randomized clinical trial

Dev Med Child Neurol. 1998 Apr;40(4):220-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.1998.tb15454.x.


The objective of this single-center investigator-masked randomized clinical trial was to investigate the efficacy and safety of selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) in children with spastic diplegia. Forty-three children with spastic diplegia were randomly assigned on an intention-to-treat basis to receive SDR plus physical therapy (PT), or PT alone. Thirty-eight children completed follow-up through 24 months. Twenty-one children received SDR (SDR+PT group) and 17 received PT (PT Only group). SDR was guided with electrophysiological monitoring and performed by one experienced neurosurgeon. All subjects received equivalent PT. Spasticity was quantified with an electromechanical torque measurement device (spasticity measurement system [SMS]). The Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) was used to document changes in functional mobility. Primary outcome measures were collected at baseline, 6, 12, and 24 months by evaluators masked to treatment. At 24 months, the SDR+PT group exceeded the PT Only group in mean reduction of spasticity by SMS measurement (-8.2 versus +5.1 newton meters/radian, P=0.02). The SDR+PT group and the PT Only group demonstrated similar improvements in independent mobility on the GMFM (7.0 versus 7.2 total percent score, P=0.94). Outcomes on secondary variables were consistent with primary outcomes. There were no serious adverse events. We conclude that SDR is safe and reduces spasticity in children with spastic diplegia. SDR plus PT and equivalent PT without SDR result in equal improvements in independent mobility at 24 months. SDR may not be an efficacious treatment for children with mild spastic diplegia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebral Palsy / pathology
  • Cerebral Palsy / surgery*
  • Cerebral Palsy / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rhizotomy / methods*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / pathology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome