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Multiple Sclerosis and Baclofen Therapy

What Are the Advantages of the Baclofen Pump System?

The baclofen pump system:

  • Efficiently reduces spasticity and involuntary spasms, promoting a more active lifestyle, better sleep, and reduced need for oral drugs
  • Continuously delivers baclofen in small doses directly to the spinal fluid, increasing the therapeutic benefits and causing fewer and less severe side effects than the oral version
  • Can be individually adjusted to allow infusion rates that vary over a 24-hour period
  • Can be turned off when it isn't needed
  • Reduces or eliminates pain and discomfort from spasms and spasticity

What Are the Disadvantages of the Baclofen Pump System?

There are certain risks that must be considered with any surgery, and implanting the baclofen pump is no exception. Risks include:

  • An adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bladder control can be altered, causing loss of urine unexpectedly
  • Pump malfunction: If the pump malfunctions (this is rare), it may deliver too much medicine at once. In that instance, you will develop symptoms such as drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, insomnia (difficulty falling and/or staying asleep), lightheadedness, nausea, constipation, vomiting, loose muscles, trouble with vision, coma, respiratory depression, seizures, dry mouth, double vision, decreased concentration, diarrhea, or delayed responsiveness. Should this occur, go to the nearest emergency room immediately. A doctor can give you a drug called physostigmine to counteract baclofen.
  • Kinked catheter: If the catheter becomes "kinked," surgery may be necessary to replace the catheter.

How Do I Know if the Baclofen Pump System Is Right for Me?

If your treatment team recommends the baclofen pump system after your evaluation, you will have a trial of the therapy to test the potential effectiveness of the medication.

During the medication trial, baclofen is injected into the spinal canal (using a small needle) and the treatment team assesses its effectiveness over two to four hours. If your muscles don't relax during the first trial, a larger dose may be given on a later date to determine its effectiveness.

If you experience positive results with the intrathecal medication, you can decide with your doctor and family members if you should have a baclofen pump system implanted during a surgical procedure.


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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on August 31, 2012

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