What is Baclofen and a Baclofen Pump?

cerebral palsy, baclofen, baclofen pump

If your child suffers from severe spasticity due to their Cerebral Palsy, baclofen might be a suitable treatment option. Baclofen is medicine used to treat muscle symptoms that accompany Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy. Electric signals from your nerves instruct when to tense up and when to relax your muscles. This becomes abnormal when the nerves are damaged. This causes spasticity, ending with muscles not working as well as they should. Baclofen is a medicine that restores the signals back to normal allowing muscles to work properly. Baclofen will reduce pain, help patients move and walk more easily. There are two options when it comes to taking this medicine. You can take it orally in pill or liquid form or have the medicine distributed through a medical device that is implanted in the body.
Children with Cerebral Palsy were studied on the effects of taking baclofen in pill form. Eleven children with Cerebral Palsy participated in the medical research study. Ten children out of eleven, resulted with better function after taking the medicine. Four parents stated that their child was more comfortable and six parents reported that their child was easier to take care of. The medicine usually must be taken three times a day. The medicine is not that expensive and costs under $30.  The pill form comes in 10 mg or 20 mg doses. The benefits of using the medicine will start showing in one to two weeks.
Baclofen Pump
The Baclofen Pump is a targeted therapy option for treating severe spasticity from Cerebral Palsy. The pump is surgically placed in the body near the abdomen. The procedure takes one to four hours to complete and the patient usually undergoes anesthesia. Patients must be placed on bedrest for two to three days after the surgery. After the operation, the patient must stay in the hospital for four to six days. The baclofen pump is about the size of a hockey puck.

Image Source: Medtronic

The device delivers the medicine, baclofen, into the nervous system by a small tube. It is battery operated but it is controlled by a computer system. The computer system is used by doctors to operate how much medicine is being distributed, the frequency and the timing. The pump can send the medicine into the spinal cord throughout the day and night no matter if the user is sleeping or not. Doing so can relief the patient’s symptoms better because it is continuous as compared to taking pills while the person is only awake. One of the disadvantages of the pump is that the device doesn’t last forever. The pump needs to be replaced every five years which means going under the knife and having more surgery. The pump also needs to be refilled with medicine every one to six months depending on the usage of the patient. This happens by a trained medical professional removing the remaining medicine in the pump and refilling it with a needle. The needle goes through the skin and directly into the device to do so.

Video on Pump Refill Procedure

You should never stop taking the medicine abruptly. Doing so can cause major complications. These complications include withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and auditory or visual hallucinations. If you want to quit taking the medicine or lower your dosage, speak with a doctor before doing so. The medicine should not be taken if you are pregnant. The medicine is known to cause birth defects in animals. The medicine should also not be taken if you are breast feeding. Baclofen can be transferred from the mother to the child this way. Below are side effects that can happen to anyone taking the medicine.

Common Side Effects:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Risks Of Baclofen Pump Surgery:

  • Pump malfunction
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Complications of bladder control

Baclofen can improve your child’s symptoms. It can improve their range of motion, reduce pain and enable them to walk better. The medicine and the pump are approved by the FDA. Both are also covered by most insurance companies including Medicare and Medicaid. If you are thinking about starting baclofen, talk to a doctor. A doctor specializing in spasticity treatment will be able to help you. These include neurologists, doctors of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

If you have a child with Cerebral Palsy and would like more information on treatment options, please call our care team at (800) 692-4453. We are here to assist you and your loved one. Call and request our free kit on treatment options for Cerebral Palsy today.