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Surgical Procedure Can Reduce Pain, Improve Mobility For Children With Cerebral Palsy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are treatments that can reduce pain and movement difficulties for children.

As CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reported Friday, a delicate surgical procedure is making a big difference for one little girl.

"She was so excited about this surgery, thinking it is going to be magical cut and she will be all good," said Sushma Manjunatha, the mother of 5-year-old Bhoomi Manjunatha.

Bhoomi's parents gave her kisses of encouragement and she prepared to undergo a rare spinal surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

"This is most commonly performed for cerebral palsy," said Dr. Jeffrey Leonard.

The surgery will make Bhoomi's muscles less stiff by cutting the nerve roots alongside the spinal cord, which carry abnormal signals from her muscles.

The operation will reduce spasticity, and, Leonard said, "There is an improvement in pain and there is a decrease in the amount of orthopedic procedures that they need."

After surgery comes the hard part – months of intensive physical therapy to learn how to use her newly-released and relaxed muscles.

"She came to Rehab really weak, not really able to do a lot, not able to move around a lot on her own," said Rochelle Krouse of CTRS Therapeutic Recreation. "Now, she's pulling herself up to stand and she's walking while someone is watching her with a walker."

Three months after the surgery, Bhoomi's outpatient therapists said she was improving in every area.

"Her legs are pretty straight. I can really feel her knee locking which was never there," said Sushma Manjunatha. "It's so important, because that's what keeps her up straight - and helps her use her upper muscles"

Not every child with cerebral palsy is a candidate for the surgery. There are other options, including other orthopedic procedures, implantable pumps, and more physical therapy.

The key is a thorough evaluation by a team with cerebral palsy children.

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