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What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy or CP is a condition that affects muscle control and movement. It’s usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or after birth. Children with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy may have difficulties in controlling muscles and movements as they grow and develop. It is estimated that 1 in 400 babies born in the UK each year have a type of cerebral palsy.

Find out how Tree Of Hope helped Kallie, a young girl with cerebral palsy, raise £40,000 for an operation that enabled her first steps.

Cerebral Palsy Treatment

There are various interventions which can help to relieve the symptoms associated with cerebral palsy, including specialist physiotherapy, occupational therapy, strength coaching, sports activities and speech and language therapy. In some cases, surgery is an option and can lessen spasticity or muscle stiffness in the lower limbs, which can give some children the possibility of being able to walk independently. 

What is SDR Surgery?

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) is a surgical procedure performed on those suffering from abnormal communication between the brain and nerves in the body. These nerve abnormalities result in spasticity experiences in the individual’s lower limbs. 

SDR is not a cure for Cerebral Palsy, but the operation intends to improve quality of life by reducing muscle stiffness. The procedure is irreversible so the changes cannot be undone. But, the procedure’s effectiveness at reducing spasticity and improving quality of life has been demonstrated many times. 

SDR surgery is the only known procedure for removing spasticity in the legs. The four- to five-hour procedure involves;

  • An incision is made into the upper lumbar spine.
  • An ultrasound prod is used to identify the lower end of the spinal cord.
  • Under the operating microscope, the membrane covering the spinal cord is opened and the lower end of the cord, with the sensory roots entering it, is identified.
  • Each of the sensory nerve roots is then subdivided into four or five rootlets.
  • Each rootlet is stimulated to identify the ones that contribute most to the spasticity.
  • These rootlets are then divided. The process is repeated for all the other nerve roots on both sides, aiming to divide 50 to 70 per cent of the sensory roots.
  • At the end of the procedure, the membrane covering the spinal cord is closed again.
  • The back muscles are returned to their original position and the skin is closed with dissolvable stitches.

Who is Eligible for SDR? 

Not all children with CP are suitable candidates for SDR in the first instance due to their degree of severity, or lack of strength in the trunk, but with specialist physiotherapy and strength training, it is possible that surgery can become a viable option for some. 

It is important for the families of children who are eligible for SDR to understand the long-term commitment needed pre-and post-operatively, as all children recovering from the surgery will need to participate in specialist physiotherapy for a minimum of six months. This is a very conservative estimate, and in most cases, children will need regular physiotherapy for much longer post-surgery.

Surgery Complications

Children with a history of meningitis do not take well to the procedure. Any children with severe muscle rigidity or cerebral palsy that affects the whole body are not suitable either. Before a child is considered for the procedure they need to demonstrate adequate muscle strength in the legs.

How Much Does SDR Surgery Cost?

Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy is an expensive procedure and costs can rise with extensive physiotherapy afterwards. Costs for the surgery range from around £20-30,000 and treatment after the procedure can also be expensive. Physiotherapy on the lower end of the scale can cost around £4,000 per annum, but depending on how long your child needs therapy, costs could rise to £13,000.

The five centres offering self-funded SDR in the UK (Great Ormond Street, Bristol, Nottingham, Leeds and Alder Hey) have slightly different criteria for surgery. We recommend parents speak to the SDR teams at the five centres to find out which will be most suitable for their child’s needs.

How Can Tree of Hope Help?

With the cost of SDR, not all families can afford to provide the relief the surgery can bring. At Tree of Hope, we provide an effective fundraising platform for families who wish to access the SDR procedure in both the UK and the US. 

Although the procedure isn’t suitable for all children, the long-term benefits are now apparent. Tree of Hope can help with your fundraising efforts. Find out how to get started, or contact our Family Support Team at 01892 535525 to find out how we can help.

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