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The Baclofen Pump

One Young Woman's Experience

My name is Debbie Waltz and I'm a freshman at Washtenaw Community College. I am receiving one of the new treatments for people with cerebral palsy- the Intrathecal Baclofen Pump (ITB). I have had one for about two years now and it's really enhanced my life. My arms are more relaxed and I'm beter able to reach the control on my motorized wheelchair and drive it. It's also easier to get dressed.

Baclofen is a medication that relaxes the muscles of the patient. The Baclofen pump is an innovative way of dispensing Baclofen throughout the body without using oral medication. This therapy involves putting a pump just underneath the skin which dispenses Baclofen continuously throughout the day. The pump is about the size of a hockey puck and is usually located below the rib cage just above the hip. It is connected to a catheter that carries the medication from the pump to the spine. Doctors program the computer inside the pump specifically to accomodate the patient's spasticity. Medtronic, Inc. created this new therapy.

Getting a Baclofen pump is an intensive process which begins with different tests to see whether the pump will work for you or your child. One particular test measures how far you can stretch or do other activities before and after receiving a dose of Baclofen. This test determines if the medication will work for you and also tells the doctors what dose of Baclofen works best to relax your muscles.

Another issue to think about when considering the pump is the fact that it must be refilled either weekly or monthly, depending on its size. There are two sizes of pumps, 10ml and 20ml. The smaller pump holds less medication but is more suitable for smaller people. The bigger size is usually used with adults and allows more time between refills, giving people more independence and freedom.

The pump is implanted by surgery which lasts about two and a half hours. After the pump is implanted, a band is wrapped around the abdomen. The band ensures the pump stays in place for six weeks, after which the pump is less likely to come out of place. Most patients stay in the hospital for two or three days after the surgery.

The ITB pump is refilled through a small needle poked into the pump reservoir just underneath the skin. The medication left is measured against the calculated amount that should be left. The pump is then refilled with fresh Baclofen. If the patient schedules a refill date too close to the date the pump will run out, a small beeping sound inside the pump will indicate medication is low.

For more information on the Baclofen pump, contact your doctor or view the Medtronic website www.Medtronic.com.