SDR Surgery in the United States and the United Kingdom
There are many hospitals in the world that perform selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery. In fact, the first such procedure took place in Europe, and the next in South Africa,
before then being performed in North America. Today, there are a few hospitals in the United States that are well known for their expertise in this type of neurosurgery, such as Boston Children’s Hospital and Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul, Minnesota, and there are numerous other places that successfully provide it. However, St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri is widely acknowledged around the world as being the best place to undergo this procedure.
There are several reasons for the renown of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, chief among them the fact that their cerebral palsy center has over 24 years of experience with SDR surgery. They have performed the operation over 2,500 times without any of their patients experiencing major complications. They routinely do surgery on patients from other countries, and they have completed and published numerous scientific articles on rhizotomy and its outcomes. They also have Dr. T.S. Park, who is something of a legend in the cerebral palsy community for his amazing career and the repeated success of his patients. (You can read more about Dr. Park here (Washington magazine.wustl.edu) He has made it his life’s work to help children with spastic cerebral palsy overcome their spasticity through SDR surgery, and he has helped adults with spastic cerebral palsy as well.
It is this doctor and this hospital that draw many patients from the United Kingdom stateside to have their children get the best chance at an improved life. (MAYBE LINK TO A FEW OF OUR BLOG POSTS HERE?) Unfortunately, there are currently some serious mitigating factors to consider before having SDR surgery in the U.K. Although there is a team at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Hospital in Oswestry who has been providing SDR surgery since 1988, they use a more invasive technique during the surgery, which leaves more room for complications and requires a longer recovery time. It is only since 2011 that four other hospitals in the U.K. began offering SDR surgery with a more minimal approach, similar to that practiced here. Due to the recent start date, of course the pediatric teams at these hospitals don’t have as much experience as the hospitals in the U.S., though they have had successful outcomes.
Another potential problem in the U.K. is funding. Sometimes the National Health Service agrees to pay for SDR surgery and sometimes it does not, leaving the burden of the cost on the parents. Sometimes, too, NHS will cover part but not all of the cost. In a country where healthcare services are usually free, this puts a huge burden on a population who is not used to it. Often, families have to hold fundraisers to cover the cost of their medical bills, which can climb even higher if they decide to come to St. Louis for the surgery.
Meanwhile, groups such as Support 4 SDR are hard at work lobbying for better access to SDR surgery for children in the U.K., and for more funding to cover the operation and the following physical therapy for every child. They have recently brought the issue before Parliament, so it is being reviewed and will hopefully result in more children benefiting from SDR surgery without having to travel a continent away to do so. What Insurance Will Do for You: How to Pay for SDR Surgery