What Is Spasticity?

Spasticity is muscle tightness that makes movement—especially of the arms and legs—difficult or uncontrollable. It typically results from injury to a part of the central nervous system (i.e., to the brain or spinal cord) or from abnormalities in parts of the brain that voluntary movements. Common conditions associated with spasticity include cerebral palsy, brain injury, stroke and spinal cord injury. Spasticity—which varies from mild stiffness to severe, painful, uncontrolled muscle spasms—can sometimes be very difficult to control and can interfere with activities of daily living.

Treating spasticity:

  • May promote comfort and improve ease of care.
  • May improve gait, mobility and function.
  • May decrease spasm frequency, pain and fatigue.
  • May promote increased range of motion.
  • Complements physical, occupational and speech therapies.

Treating severe spasticity may require a combination of approaches. For some patients, intrathecal baclofen pump therapy may be a good option. Because a baclofen pump releases medication—baclofen—directly into the fluid of the spinal column, the baclofen does not enter the bloodstream. This avoids some of oral baclofen’s potential side effects in the brain and gut, and avoids drug interactions for people with complex medication regimens to treat conditions such as seizures.

If your physician or therapist has recommended an evaluation for a baclofen pump, your next step is to make an appointment with our neurosurgeon and baclofen pump team to discuss the pump and determine if this is an appropriate treatment. We can plan for surgery when you are ready.

About the Intrathecal Baclofen Pump:

An intrathecal baclofen pump is a device that delivers baclofen directly into the spinal canal. It is surgically placed under the skin of the abdominal region of the body. Attached to the pump is a tiny catheter that extends into the spinal canal. The catheter delivers baclofen to a specific area around the spinal cord—called the Intrathecal space—precisely where baclofen is needed to help reduce spasticity and improve comfort and function.

The pump delivers baclofen continuously throughout the day and night. It can also be programmed to deliver different amounts of baclofen at different times. An external programmer uses telemetry to communicate with the pump and tell it how much baclofen to deliver.

Surgery to replace the pump will be required before expiration of the pump’s battery, which lasts approximately seven years. We will help you track when this should be done. In most cases, this is a simpler surgery than the initial pump placement surgery: Only the pump is replaced; the catheter stays in place.