Baclofen Pump Relieves Severe Muscle Stiffness


Vol. 10, No. 3
September, 2000

  • Photodynamic Therapy: A Ray of Hope for Cancer Patients

  • Baclofen Pump Relieves Severe Muscle Stiffness

  • New Intervention Helps Seal Spinal Fractures

  • Winthrop’s Program of Radiography Accepts Applications

  • The Pediatric Special Care Unit
    A Regional Resource for Children Requiring Intensive Care

  • Neonatologist Awarded $2.186 Million for Multi-center Study

  • Prostate Cancer Screening Planned

  • Ambulatory Surgery Unit Now Operational

  • Parent Alert: Four-to-Eight-Year-Olds Need Booster Seats in Cars

  • New Poison Control Website

  • October is Breast Health Month

  • September is Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month

  • Nurse Specialist Group
    An Educational Resource

  • More than 500 Celebrate Cancer Survivors Day

  • Board Member Theodora Hooten Receives Trustee of the Year” Award

  • New Conference Center and Library Dedicated

  • “Evidence-Based Medicine” Training Grant

  • Winthrop President and CEO Honored by Metropolitan Health Administrators’ Association

  • Hospital Volunteers Needed

  • An Enchanted Evening

  • Copyright

    Back to Publications


  • Jessica Wall, 13, seated (C), has found relief from severe spasticity through an implanted baclofen pump. The procedure was recommended by her pediatric neurologists Vijaya Atluru, MD, (standing, L) and Greg Rosenn, MD, (standing, R). Jessica’s mother, Nancy, (standing, C) has noted a marked improvement in Jessica’s quality of life.
    Pessica’s hands are now completely open, rather than in a clenched fist. She can sleep with her body in a straight line, rather than curled up, like a letter ‘C’. Before the treatment, none of Jessica’s physical therapists could bend her left leg, but now, they can.

    “Since the insertion of the baclofen pump, Jessica is a much happier child,” said Nancy Wall enthusiastically, of the improvement in her 13-year-old daughter, Jessica, who has Cerebral Palsy and had been suffering from progressive spasticity. Jessica Wall was the first pediatric patient at Winthrop’s Institute for Neurosciences to undergo implantation with a baclofen pump. A pretty girl, Jessica is the only child of Nancy and Gerard Wall. She cannot speak, but the warmth in her eyes, her obvious interest in meeting new people, and her recently acquired ability to hold hands, all communicate volumes about the improvement in her physical well-being.

    Prior to the baclofen pump implantation, Jessica was tormented by spasticity – severe tightness and stiffness of the muscles. Other patients may suffer from spasticity due to a neurological incident or a brain injury. Jessica’s movements frequently resulted in severe muscle spasms. Her problem was multiplied several times over while she slept. With every nighttime movement, painful muscle spasms would awaken her.

    It was clear to Jessica’s mother, and to Vijaya Atluru, MD, Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurology, that Jessica’s muscles were progressively tightening. “When Jessica was younger, she could vocalize and even speak some words. As the muscles tightened, Jessica lost her speaking ability,” noted Nancy Wall.

    Dr. Atluru was the first to recommend the baclofen pump for Jessica. “It was clear that no further relief could be provided, short of neurosurgery. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical therapy had not helped much, nor did multiple orthopaedic surgical procedures,” explained Dr. Atluru.

    Baclofen is a muscle relaxant, administered to relieve some of the symptoms of spasticity, spinal cord injuries, Cerebral Palsy, and Multiple Sclerosis. It works by relaxing extremely tight muscles, enabling the individual to regain capabilities that may have been lost.

    Greg Rosenn MD, Faculty Attending, Division of Pediatric Neurology, initiated the procedure with a trial spinal tap, injecting a small amount of baclofen into Jessica’s spinal column. The baclofen treatment provided obvious relief.

    The next day, pediatric neurosurgeon Mark Mittler, MD performed the entire neurosurgical procedure. He placed a small catheter in the spinal canal, connected to a pump, the size of a hockey puck, which was inserted in the abdominal wall.

    “This exciting technology allows us to deliver the drug directly to the nervous system,” said Dr. Mittler. “It is clearly an effective technique for reducing spasticity in many patients and improving their quality of life.”

    Neurologists caution that baclofen cannot cure Cerebral Palsy or any other disease. It cannot revive muscular and nerve function where there is none.

    For further information on the baclofen pump procedure for children, please call Dr. Atluru at (516) 663-9494. For information about the baclofen pump procedure for adults, please call Garry Schwall, RPAC, Administrator for Surgical Services at Winthrop, at (516) 663-3893.



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