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Open Access Research article

Percutaneous radiofrequency lesions adjacent to the dorsal root ganglion alleviate spasticity and pain in children with cerebral palsy: pilot study in 17 patients

Georges F Vles1, Johan S Vles1*, Maarten van Kleef2, Jan van Zundert2, Heleen M Staal3, Wim E Weber1, Lodewijk W van Rhijn3, Dan Soudant1, H Kerr Graham4 and Anton J de Louw5

Author Affiliations

1 Neurology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, the Netherlands

2 Anesthesiology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, the Netherlands

3 Orthopaedic surgery, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, the Netherlands

4 Orthopaedic Surgery, Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia

5 Epilepsy Centre Kempenhaeghe, Heeze, the Netherlands

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BMC Neurology 2010, 10:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-10-52

Published: 22 June 2010



Cerebral palsy (CP) may cause severe spasticity, requiring neurosurgical procedures. The most common neurosurgical procedures are continuous infusion of intrathecal baclofen and selective dorsal rhizotomy. Both are invasive and complex procedures. We hypothesized that a percutaneous radiofrequency lesion of the dorsal root ganglion (RF-DRG) could be a simple and safe alternative treatment. We undertook a pilot study to test this hypothesis.


We performed an RF-DRG procedure in 17 consecutive CP patients with severe hip flexor/adductor spasms accompanied by pain or care-giving difficulties. Six children were systematically evaluated at baseline, and 1 month and 6 months after treatment by means of the Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS), Gross Motor Function Measure (GMFM) and a self-made caregiver's questionnaire. Eleven subsequent children were evaluated using a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for spasticity, pain and ease of care.


A total of 19 RF-DRG treatments were performed in 17 patients. We found a small improvement in muscle tone measured by MAS, but no effect on the GMFM scale. Despite this, the caregivers of these six treated children unanimously stated that the quality of life of their children had indeed improved after the RF-DRG. In the subsequent 11 children we found improvements in all VAS scores, in a range comparable to the conventional treatment options.


RF-DRG is a promising new treatment option for severe spasticity in CP patients, and its definitive effectiveness remains to be defined in a randomised controlled trial.