Spasticity is a debilitating condition that can be treated with medication. When oral drugs are not effective or cause too many side effects, intrathecal baclofen therapy can help alleviate muscle stiffness and spasms.
Intrathecal infusion pumps administer high doses of baclofen directly into the spinal canal. Baclofen is a medication that is usually given orally to spasticity patients. When it goes directly into an area of the spinal canal called the intrathecal space, baclofen is 100 times more potent and has fewer side effects.
Your neurosurgeon implants the pump system under your skin, near the waistline. The pump system has two parts: the pump and tubing, called a catheter. The pump stores medication and releases it into the spinal canal through the catheter. Your doctor refills the pump during regular office visits every one to three months. The pump must be fully replaced about every seven years.
Intrathecal baclofen can be used to treat severe spasticity due to stroke, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, head injury, and other less common conditions. Only you and your doctor can decide if this surgical procedure is right for you.
Intrathecal baclofen therapy relieves symptoms, but it is not a cure. After the pump is implanted, it can take several months for your doctor to find the right baclofen dose for you. It can take up to six months of adjustments after surgery for some patients to achieve optimal results.
Patients will also need to return to clinic as often as once a month but sometimes only twice a year to refill the pump. Refills and dose adjustments can be done during office visits.
Interested in intrathecal baclofen therapy at UCLA? Get prepared for your first appointment.