BACKGROUND: Short-term benefit on gait of selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery, which relieves spasticity of the lower extremities has been demonstrated in children with cerebral palsy (CP). However very little is known of the evolution of gait when patients become adolescents and young adults.
RESEARCH QUESTION: How does the gait pattern evolve in adolescents and young adults who underwent SDR during childhood?
METHODS: A longitudinal study was performed including 19 ambulant patients with spastic diplegia due to CP or other causes (mean age at SDR: 6.6 ± 1.6 years) who were assessed four times: pre-SDR, 2 years post- SDR, 5 years post-SDR and at least 10 years post-SDR. From 2D video recordings, Edinburgh Visual Gait Score and lower limb joint kinematic parameters were calculated.
RESULTS: Our data show that the improvement in the gait pattern obtained short-term after SDR continues during into adolescence and adulthood. Ten years after SDR all patients improved compared to baseline. Considering the lower limb joint kinematics, most notable improvements were found at knee and ankle joints. Compared to the evaluation before SDR, the range of motion of the knee increased: the knee was more extended at initial contact and knee flexion in midswing improved. Excessive ankle plantar flexion was reduced during the entire gait cycle. Only minor changes were found at hip and pelvis. Eight patients underwent additional orthopaedic surgery in the years after SDR, and the present findings should be considered as a combination of SDR, development and additional treatment.
SIGNIFICANCE: We demonstrate lasting improvement of gait quality in ambulant patients with spastic diplegia who underwent SDR during childhood when they become adolescents and young adults.