What is Baclofen and a Baclofen Pump?

Nationwide Cerebral Palsy Resource Network

Baclofen,Baclofen pump, spasticity, cerebral palsy

What is Baclofen and a Baclofen Pump?

Baclofen is medicine used to treat muscle symptoms that accompany Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy. Muscles receive electric signals from your nerves that instruct when to tense up and when to relax. These signals can become abnormal due to damaged nerves which results in spasticity. Ending with muscles not moving correctly and tensing up. Baclofen is a medicine that can help with this by restoring signals back to normal which improves how the muscles work. It will help minimize spasticity-related pain, helping patients walk more easily and loosen tight muscles. There are two ways you can take this medicine. One way is orally and the other is in which a medical device can distribute it directly to the spinal fluid.

Baclofen

A study on the effects of baclofen administered to children with Cerebral Palsy had great results. Eleven children with Cerebral Palsy participated in the study by taking the medicine orally. Ten parents stated that their child’s functioning was better, four said that their child was more comfortable and six parents reported that it was easier to take care of their child. However, the medicine is not approved for use by children who are younger than 12 years old. The medicine may have to be taken three times a day but the cost of the medicine is usually not that expensive. Baclofen either comes in pill or liquid form. The white pill is odorless and comes in dosage amounts of 10 mg or 20 mg. Beneficial effects will start occurring after one to two weeks after starting baclofen. The most frequent side effect of the medication is drowsiness. Other side effects include dizziness and weakness.

Baclofen Pump

A Baclofen Pump is targeted therapy and the other option of the medicine used to reduce severe spasticity from Cerebral Palsy. The pump is surgically implanted into the individual’s body. The battery-operated pump can be compared to the size of a hockey puck and is surgically placed near the abdomen. The device delivers the medicine, baclofen, into the nervous system by a small tube. The pump is controlled by a computer system that a doctor will use to set the exact amount, timing of medication and rate of the dosage. The dose of baclofen when administered by the pump can be much smaller compared to the dosage received orally.  This is because it is directly put into the nervous system around the spinal cord. This can be much beneficial because one of the side effects of the medicine is sedation. Receiving a smaller dose will help eliminate this issue. Another positive of the pump is that you can receive the medicine all day and night giving better relief of Cerebral Palsy symptoms. A disadvantage of the pump option is that the device doesn’t last forever. The pump must be refilled with medicine every one to six months, depending on the dosage of the medicine needed by the patient. This is done by having a medical professional insert a needle through your skin and into the pump. They will first empty the remaining medicine in the pump out by sucking it up through the needle and then will refill the pump using a needle again. The actual pump also needs to be removed and replaced every five years which means going under the knife and having another surgery.

Complications

Once you start taking baclofen, you should not stop taking it abruptly. If you need to stop taking the medication, you should talk with a doctor who can gradually lower the dosage. Halting the medication abruptly can lead to dangerous reactions. The side-effects of withdrawals that come with stopping the medication suddenly can be auditory and visual hallucinations along with seizures. If you are pregnant, the medication is labeled as unsafe for use. The medicine has been linked to causing birth defects in animals. If you are planning on becoming pregnant talk to your doctor. The medication has also been known to pass through breast milk which can be unsafe for your baby. 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

If you are thinking about baclofen as a treatment option, talk with a medical professional that specializes in spasticity treatment. This includes neurologists, doctors of physical medicine and rehabilitation. They will be able to help you make the decision on whether the pump or taking the medicine orally is the best choice for you. Baclofen can improve your range of motion, reduce pain and help you walk. The medicine and the pump are both FDA approved and covered by most health insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Do you have questions on therapy treatment options for your child? We offer free eBooks and resources to help you find the right avenue for improving your child’s health. Call us at (800) 462-5772 for our wide assortment of free resources.