Intrathecal baclofen therapy for neurological disorders: a sound knowledge base but many challenges remain

P. M. Brennan, I. R. Whittle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Continuous infusion of intrathecal baclofen (ITB) via a subcutaneously implanted pump has developed over the last 20 years as a powerful tool in the management of spasticity in various adult and paediatric neurological conditions. Acting more focally on spinal GABA receptors, ITB causes fewer systemic side effects than orally administered baclofen. The result is facilitation of daily caring, and symptomatic relief from painful spasm. With increasing experience of ITB use, novel applications and indications are emerging. These include the management of dystonia and chronic neuropathic pain. However, despite some recent authoritative reviews, there is still uncertainty about optimal use and evaluation of this therapy. Many challenges remain. How can efficacy of therapy best be assessed both at primary testing and after pump implantation? What is the precise mechanism of baclofen action in different brain and spinal disorders associated with spasticity and dystonia? Does placement of the spinal catheter tip influence efficacy? What is the cranio-caudal gradient of CSF baclofen levels at given pump flow rates and does this matter? What CSF baclofen levels are efficacious in various conditions? Why do some patients with the same primary condition require large differences in ITB dose? What are the relative merits of programmable versus constant infusion rate pumps? What are the implications of setting up multidisciplinary teams for long term follow up? This review evaluates these questions and highlights other areas for further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)508-519
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Neurosurgery
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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