Cerebral Palsy Treatment: Baclofen and Baclofen Pumps
Spasticity and Muscle Tension in Cerebral Palsy
Individuals with spastic cerebral palsy have spasticity, a condition which makes physical movement look jerky due to muscle stiffness. This muscular stiffness is due to hypertonia (increased muscle tone). Relaxing muscular stiffness through treatment and therapy techniques can help to reduce some of the stiffness and, in turn, some of the jerky movements that accompany spastic cerebral palsy. The process of treatment requires a thorough evaluation of a child’s physical abilities and the benefits and risks of available drug regimens.
Before spasticity medications are prescribed, doctors evaluate a child’s motor function. They can use a scale like the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS), which measures motor function in day-to-day settings, or the Manual Ability Classification System (MACS). Other diagnostic tests and evaluations are also used to provide a comprehensive understanding of the degree of the child’s spasticity.
Antispastic Drugs such as Baclofen Help Make Movement Easier
Children with spasticity are often placed on oral antispastic drugs such as Baclofen. This drug suppresses the release of the neurotransmitters that cause spasticity by decreasing the neuron’s excitability (how much the neuron responds to a particular signal). This, in turn, prevents the chain reaction that signals motor neurons to fire. Baclofen does, however, have some side effects (such as confusion, sedation, hypotonia, ataxia and nausea). The body absorbs baclofen very quickly, making it effective for rapid-release treatments, but does need to be readministered fairly frequently because its half-life in only 2-4 hours.
For those with very severe spasticity, doctors can use a baclofen pump instead. The baclofen pump is inserted into the patient’s abdomen. A catheter leads from the pump into the patient’s spinal canal; the doctor sets a particular dose of baclofen to be delivered continuously to the spine. The advantage of using a baclofen pump is that it allows doctors to use a smaller concentration of baclofen than when it is taken orally because the compound is injected directly into the patient’s cerebrospinal fluid. The lowered dose of baclofen helps avoid some of the side effects of high-dose baclofen, which can include sleepiness and sedation.
It is important to remember that these pumps need to be maintained. Depending on the dose that a child may receive, the pump may need to be refilled once every one to six months. Pumps also must be surgically replaced approximately every five years.
Baclofen and baclofen pumps are effective in treating spasticity in many cases, provided that proper maintenance procedures and administration instructions are followed. We are including some additional information regarding baclofen pumps below for further information.
- The University of Michigan provides a comprehensive guide to baclofen pumps, including details regarding health risks, long-term care, and detailed descriptions for care.
- The National Institute of Health provides a detailed analysis of the effectiveness of baclofen pumps for readers who want more detail.
Treatments for cerebral palsy, including baclofen pumps, can be expensive. Reiter & Walsh, P.C. focus on helping children with birth injuries and cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence secure the compensation they deserve. We provide free case evaluations to prospective clients. To further demonstrate our dedication to helping those impacted by birth injury, we do not charge any fees until the case has been won. Please contact us by phone (1-888-419-2229), or via our online contact form.