Hopes are rising that the NHS in England may be have a change of heart over funding Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) operations.

The innovative surgery, developed by Dr T S Park at the St Louis’ Children’s Hospital in Missouri, involves opening vertebrae at the base of the spine and operating on the nerves within, which can relieve stiffness and spasticity in the legs and allow many children to walk.

The procedure has been performed on thousands of children, including over 100 British children who have travelled to the US for the operation.

And now a new NHS new pilot scheme is exploring the possibility of making the procedure more easily available in the UK. Trials will take place in 10 hospitals and record the progress of patients over the next 24 months.

Until now, the NHS would not routinely fund the operation because it retained doubts over its clinical- and cost-effectiveness, meaning parents are forced to raise tens of thousands of pounds before applying to join a waiting list or travelling to the US for treatment.

However, of the 2,600 operations performed so far it’s reported that there were only complications in three cases.

One parent, who wished to remain nameless, told Firefly: “We have done our research, and there are minimal risks, as with any surgery, but there have been no negative affects reported so far.”

“SDR is sort of portrayed as the ultimate answer in the press, which of course it isn’t always. But a lot of parents are up in arms because operations like breast enlargements can get funding but not an operation that could help a child walk.”

And the huge cost and travel wasn’t the only problem.

“I would love to have the surgery here in the UK - I’d prefer my son to be able to work with the people he knows in his rehabilitation and aftercare.”

So, fingers crossed that more families will soon have the chance to benefit from this life-changing surgery. For the children whose operation was successful, SDR gave them freedom to live their lives and participate in family life more than their parents ever dreamed.

Do you have any experience of SDR?

 

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