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Neurochirurgie. 2003 May;49(2-3 Pt 2):276-88.

[Intrathecal baclofen. Literature review of the results and complications].

[Article in French]

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Service de Neurochirurgie (Pr J.-M. Derlon), CHU, Caen.


Intrathecally delivered baclofen has been used as a treatment for severe spasticity since 1984. A systematic literature review was conducted from 1984 to December 2002 to analyze the results of this treatment and to collect data on complications. Studies were included if the following criteria were met: clear selection of patients suffering from spasticity of spinal or cerebral origin, clear measurements of outcome (Ashworth score, Spasm score and/or reflex score and/or functional scales), average follow-up of at least 6 months. Almost all the studies had open follow-up with no control groups (controls were used to examine the effect of test doses of baclofen rather than to assess long-term results). Studies often included heterogeneous patients groups with different causes of spasticity (spinal and/or cerebral etiology) and functional outcome was measured using different scales from one study to another. This literature review shows evidence that intrathecally administered baclofen is effective in reducing the positive signs of spasticity (tone, spasms, reflex activity). Significant reductions in spasm-related pain were noted. The reduction in spasticity led to improvement in ability to transfer and ease of nursing care in the majority of patients. Significant improvements were noted in terms of mobility. Benefits were most notable in bedridden patients who became able to sit in a wheelchair. Many benefited from improved wheelchair mobility, ability to sit down comfortably, and improvement in their ability to transfer. Such benefits were approved by all the patients as an improvement of their quality of life. Ambulatory patients could also benefit from an improved gait but were less often treated because they usually relied upon their spasticity for support during ambulation. Complications were rather rare and mainly were not life-threatening, although there was a high rate of catheter dysfunction (10 to 45%) leading to reoperation. Wound complications were the leading cause of explantation in children with cerebral palsy. Despite the risks, patient satisfaction was high and was related to the improvement of the quality of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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