A rare spine surgery is helping children with cerebral palsy walk for the first time.
The procedure is called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, or SDR.
Doctors say it is only available one place in Texas: Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
A family in northwest Houston learned their child was a candidate for the surgery last year.
Chandler Rivon, 4, was born premature with hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain.
“We started noticing when he was able to stand at maybe 15 months and walk, his legs would scissor,” said Lashea Rivon, his mother. “I felt like he might never walk.”
Chandler had the procedure last February.
Within a few months, he was able to walk with the assistance of a walker.
“Surgeons like to think that they’re tough. It really breaks you down when you see a 3- or 4-year-old running around that initially came to your office stuck in a walker or stuck in a wheelchair,” said Dr. Manish Shah, UTHealth pediatric neurosurgeon affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute.
The surgery is done through a small incision in the patient’s back. Doctors say it stops spasticity in the legs, while maintaining sensation.
Shah says the procedure is only an option for some cerebral palsy patients. Strong candidates should experience spasticity primarily in their legs, and they need to be able to participate in therapy after the procedure.
“The earlier it happens the better. We have been able to do the surgery well into adulthood, but really the ideal time is between ages three and eight,” Shah said.
He says only about 10 patients have undergone the rare surgery in Houston.
“It was essentially a miracle. After the surgery, every day, he was just better and better and stronger,” Lashea Rivon said. “Our goal is one day he will walk without assistance. He is getting stronger each day.”
Doctors say it usually takes between six months and 18 months for patients to be able to walk independently after selective dorsal rhizotomy.