The Cleveland Clinic

Multiple Sclerosis: Intrathecal Baclofen Pump Therapy

Baclofen Introduction

Baclofen is a medication commonly used to decrease spasticity related to multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, or other neurological diseases. Spasticity is a muscle problem characterized by tight or stiff muscles that may interfere with voluntary muscle movements.

How Does Baclofen Work?

Normally muscles receive electrical signals via nerves to contract and relax. Spasticity is caused by an imbalance of electrical signals coming from the spinal cord through the nerves to the muscle. This imbalance causes the muscle to become hyperactive, resulting in involuntary spasms. Baclofen works by restoring the normal balance and reducing muscle hyperactivity. In this way, it allows for more normal muscle movements.

What Are the Side Effects of Baclofen Therapy?

Side effects may include:

What Is Intrathecal Baclofen?

Baclofen can be taken orally as a pill or delivered directly into an area of the spine called the intrathecal space. The intrathecal space contains the cerebrospinal fluid -- the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots. Often MS patients receive intrathecal baclofen because oral baclofen causes unpleasant side effects, such as confusion, weakness, and sleepiness. But intrathecal baclofen delivers the drug right to the target site in the spinal cord. Since the medication does not circulate throughout the body, only tiny doses are required to be effective. Therefore, side effects are minimal.

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