Conditions + Treatments

Baclofen Pump

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What is baclofen?

The treatment of severe spasticity may require a combination of approaches. One of the most common treatments for spasticity is oral baclofen, which is a muscle relaxant. Although this works for many people, some children need high doses to manage their spasticity. Higher doses may cause side effects, such as weakness, drowsiness and nausea. However, even high doses may still not treat some children’s spasticity effectively. These patients may want to consider a baclofen pump.

What is spasticity?

Spasticity involves tight, stiff muscles that make movement — especially of the arms and legs — difficult or uncontrollable. It happens when there is an injury to a part of the central nervous system (the brain or spinal cord) that controls voluntary movements. Common conditions associated with spasticity include cerebral palsy, brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury. Spasticity can sometimes be very difficult to control and can get in the way of daily living.

What is a baclofen pump?

A baclofen pump is a little machine that is placed under the skin of one side of the abdomen (belly) near the hip bone. It is used to deliver baclofen directly into the spinal canal. 

The pump is attached to a catheter (tube), which helps direct the medicine right to a specific area of the spinal cord (called the intrathecal space). This allows the medication to be delivered exactly where it works to help reduce the spasticity. When the same medication is given by mouth, only a tiny bit of it actually gets to the area where it works.

How does a baclofen pump work?

The pump delivers medication constantly throughout the day to help relieve spasticity. It can also be programmed to deliver different amounts of medication at different times of the day, if needed. A programmer (a very small computer) is used to tell the pump how much medicine to give. It uses telemetry (similar to radio waves) to communicate with the pump. 

Once the pump is implanted and the dose is increased gradually to a level that is working for your child, there will be a notable improvement in their spasticity and comfort. There are no major limitations on activities once the surgery site is healed. Patients can do all the things they were doing previously.

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