Conditions + Treatments

Baclofen Pump | Frequently Asked Questions

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What are the possible complications of a baclofen pump?

Having a baclofen pump is generally safe and complications are rare, but can include:

  • risk of a bad reaction to anesthesia
  • risk of bleeding
  • risk of spinal fluid leak
  • risk of infection of the pump, catheter or wound (from surgery)
  • mild changes in bladder control (usually temporary)
  • mild changes in sexual or bowel function
  • overdose (too much) of baclofen
  • under-dose (too little) of baclofen
  • catheter kink (bent tubing), break, blockage, or disconnection from the pump, preventing baclofen from reaching the spinal cord
  • implant or pump failure or malfunction

What stops the catheter from moving around?

The catheter is firmly secured with stitches by the neurosurgeon. The catheter will move naturally with the spine as your child moves. The catheter will be long enough to allow for room for your child to grow.

Can the catheter break?

The catheter is made of very durable plastic and mesh. It is very rare for a catheter to break, but it can happen. If the catheter breaks, the baclofen will leak and your child will not receive the full dose. Your child will experience the symptoms of under-dosing. Scans and tests can be done to see if the catheter is broken. If the catheter breaks and you decide to continue with treatment, your child will need an operation to have a new catheter put in place.

What is the battery life of a pump?

The battery in the pump lasts seven years. Before that time, your child will need another surgery to replace the pump. We will help keep track of when this will need to happen. In most cases, it is a much simpler surgery.

Can my child get too much baclofen?

Overdose is rare. Children can get too much baclofen when a catheter is kinked and then becomes unkinked. This can also be caused by human error when programming the pump or because your child is sensitive to an increase in their dose of baclofen.

Call 617-355-6369, Pager #7867 if your child has these signs or symptoms of too much baclofen:

  • muscles that are too loose
  • feeling drowsy

Call 911 if your child:

  • had slow or irregular breathing
  • will not wake up

Can my child get too little baclofen?

After a short time, you child’s body will become dependent on baclofen. If for any reason they suddenly stop getting baclofen, it can make them very sick. This can happen because of a problem with the pump, a crack or break in the tubing, or if the pump becomes empty.

Signs that you child is not getting enough baclofen:

  • muscles are tighter than usual and not relaxing
  • high temperature
  • itchy skin
  • irritability (grumpiness)

If your child has any of these symptoms, page the baclofen pump pager at 617-355-5369, pager #7867 (PUMP).

What other symptoms might mean there’s a problem?

  • floppiness
  • fever (temperature higher than 101.5°F or 38.6°C)
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • redness, swelling or drainage at the incision site
  • swelling around the pump area
  • new seizures
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Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
For Patients: 617-355-6000
For Referring Providers: 844-BCH-PEDS | 844-224-7337

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