Intrathecal Baclofen Pump Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • Medical Author:
    Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN

    Dr. Taylor has a passion for treating patients as individuals. In practice since 1994, she has a wide range of experience in treating patients with many types of movement disorders and dementias. In addition to patient care, she is actively involved in the training of residents and medical students, and has been both primary and secondary investigator in numerous research studies through the years. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medicine (Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology). She graduated with a BS degree from Alma College, and an MS (biomechanics) from Michigan State University. She received her medical degree from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her internship and residency were completed at Botsford General Hospital. Additionally, she completed a fellowship in movement disorders with Dr. Peter LeWitt. She has been named a fellow of the American College of Neuropsychiatrists. She is board-certified in neurology by the American Osteopathic Board of Neurology and Psychiatry. She has authored several articles and lectured extensively; she continues to write questions for two national medical boards. Dr. Taylor is a member of the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council (MSAC) of the Alzheimer's Association of Michigan, and is a reviewer for the journal Clinical Neuropharmacology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Multiple Sclerosis Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

How is an intrathecal baclofen pump used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Baclofen can't treat MS itself. However, this medication can be effective in reducing the symptoms associated with severe spasticity caused by MS.

Who is a good candidate for an intrathecal baclofen pump?

There are various selection criteria used to determine if someone with MS is a candidate for an intrathecal baclofen pump. The primary consideration is the presence of spasticity that interferes with the individual's daily activities or care. If someone with MS has primary weakness, then the intrathecal baclofen pump is not an option. Other considerations include limited response to oral baclofen or intolerable side effects at the doses that are required to control the spasticity as well as a good response to a screening test of intrathecal baclofen administered into the cerebrospinal fluid. Prior to implantation of the pump, there must not be any sign of infection.

How does an intrathecal baclofen pump work?

The pump is implanted under the skin and is connected to a catheter (tube) that ends in the spinal fluid. The specific area of placement of the tubing is dependent on each patient and their associated symptoms. The pump has a small reservoir where the medication (baclofen) is placed and is programmed to deliver a specific amount of medication on a regular basis to the cerebrospinal fluid. The exact amount of medication delivered is unique to each patient and can be adjusted based upon symptoms. The programming is initially performed each month after the pump is implanted; once a patient has reached a stable dose, then the pump is checked and refilled every two to three months.

How can I expect to feel after having an intrathecal baclofen pump implanted?

Implanting a pump is a surgical procedure, and many patients experience some soreness around the surgical site after the pump is implanted. The pump is typically located in the abdomen, and some patients find that clothing that rubs over the area is uncomfortable. Some surgeons may fill the pump during the implantation, so that it starts working right away, while others wait a short time after the surgery is completed prior to filling the reservoir with medication. Once medication is flowing, benefits may be identified in six to eight hours.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/27/2015

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