Choosing a treatment option for cerebral palsy (CP) is not easy, especially when looking at cerebral palsy surgery options. However, surgery in some cases may improve mobility, range of motion and reduce pain when other options such as therapy and medications, have not helped. It’s important to discuss your particular treatment goals with your surgical and therapeutic teams to ensure that your expectations are aligned with the outcomes typically seen for individuals with similar presentations of cerebral palsy (movement disorder and impact on movement etc). 

Common Cerebral Palsy Surgeries | Procedures

The following are some common examples of surgeries, both orthopedic and neurosurgical procedures, for addressing tightness, stiffness, alignment issues and pain in spastic CP.

Orthopedic surgeries are surgeries that focus on correcting problems in the musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, joints, tendons etc). Some of these procedures are also used to address symptoms of dystonia:

  • Baclofen Pump– Baclofen is prescribed as an oral medication, but can also also be delivered via an intrathecal pump inserted into the spinal cord.
  • Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)– Although deep brain stimulation (DBS) is still in the ‘development’ phase of treating dystonia, it is included here because it has shown to be a promising treatment.
  • Lengthening Procedures– A variety of procedures of the muscles or tendons, depending on the type and location of the muscle, and the extent to which it needs to be lengthened.
  • Osteotomy– Surgical correction of a bony deformity.
  • Sective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR)– A procedure designed to reduce lower limb spasticity by cutting sensory rootlets in the spine.
  • Scoliosis Surgeries– Designed to correct deformities in the spine that affect posture.
  • Tendon Transfer– A procedure where the goal is to re-balance the muscle tone around a joint by transferring all, or part, of a tendon that has overactive, or spastic, muscles and re-attaching it to the other side of the joint.

Hip surgeries are also common for individuals with CP regardless of the type of movement disorder they have. Research has demonstrated repeatedly that the risk for hip dislocation and hip problems are directly related to GMFCS level, which relates to the person’s ability to bear weight and ambulate (walk/move).

Post-Surgical Recovery and Protocols

Each surgery or procedure has its own post-surgical recovery and therapy protocols.

Not every surgery will offer the chance for the person having the procedure to go home the same day. Some procedures require the person stay at the hospital for a few day, or even weeks, to ensure they are healing and there are no issues with the surgery site.

Post-surgical therapy plans should be discussed to determine if the required pre and post surgical appointments are compatible with the family’s schedule. The caregiver of the person having the surgery should also ask what accommodations should be planned for ahead of the surgery.

Be sure to ask your medical team about all options, side effects, long term outcomes, and what research or literature is available about the surgery.

The information from this page appears in our free and downloadable cerebral palsy tool kit.