Baclofen Pump Therapy

For patients with neurodegenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and movement disorders like dystonia, Henry Ford offers baclofen pump therapy to deliver precise amounts of baclofen (Lioresal® intrathecal) directly to the spine. Baclofen reduces muscle hyperactivity and allows for more normal muscle movements.

This type of therapy uses a pump and catheter system to deliver baclofen to the spine into the intrathecal space (where fluid flows around the spinal cord). Intrathecal baclofen can be more effective in reducing your symptoms than baclofen taken orally.

Is baclofen pump therapy right for me?

At Henry Ford, your doctor will conduct a standard screening test to determine if baclofen pump therapy may work for you. During the test, we inject a small dose of baclofen into the intrathecal space. If this test reduces your spasticity, it is a good indication that you are a candidate for baclofen pump therapy.

Baclofen pump therapy surgery: What to expect

Baclofen pump therapy surgery takes approximately one to two hours from start to finish, depending on individual surgical techniques. Your doctor will be able to answer any questions you may have about the specifics of your procedure.

Your surgery may require a brief hospital stay, or we may perform it on an outpatient basis. Before the procedure, you and your doctor will decide where to position the pump for your comfort.

During the surgery, your team will:

  • Administer general anesthesia. You will be asleep for the procedure and not feel any pain.
  • Place the pump (about the size of a computer mouse) just under the skin of your lower abdomen.
  • Connect the pump to a thin, flexible silicone tube called a catheter.
  • Thread the catheter beneath the skin into the intrathecal space around the spinal cord, so it can deliver the medication.
  • Fill the pump; depending on your doctor's preference, we may fill it during or after surgery.

After surgery, you'll feel some discomfort and tenderness at the pump and catheter sites. Your doctor may prescribe medication to relieve any pain caused by surgery and antibiotics to prevent infection.

Is baclofen pump therapy safe?

Potential surgical complications are rare but may include:

  • Infection
  • Meningitis
  • Spinal fluid leak
  • Paralysis
  • Headache
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising

Side effects of the baclofen are usually temporary. We can usually manage them by adjusting your dosage. The most common side effects include:

  • Loose muscles
  • Sleepiness
  • Upset stomach and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
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