Surgery: What to Expect – Implanting the Baclofen Pump

Surgery to implant a baclofen pump takes approximately 1 to 2 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.

Intrathecal Drug Delivery

Detail - Intrathecal drug delivery

Before the Procedure

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

During the Procedure

Typically, the surgery is performed under general anaesthesia, but you may discuss alternatives with your doctor. During surgery, the pump will be placed just under the skin of your lower abdomen.

The pump will be connected to a thin, flexible silicone tube called a catheter. The catheter is threaded beneath the skin into the intrathecal space around the spinal cord, into which it will deliver the medication.

After the Procedure

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. Tell your doctor if you notice any swelling, pain, or redness near your incision.

Depending on your doctor’s preference, the pump may be filled during or after surgery. However, some doctors recommend a short waiting period to allow you to recover from surgery and get adjusted to the pump.

You’ll begin receiving treatment as soon as the pump is filled with medication and the medication travels through the catheter to the intrathecal space. You may feel effects from the medication soon after delivery, or it may take a while for you to experience benefits. It may take several weeks to months to reach your optimal dose.

Drug Side Effects

ITB therapy drug side effects are usually temporary and may be managed by adjusting dosage.

The most common side effects include:

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

Symptoms of Baclofen Withdrawal

Please follow your doctor’s instructions closely because a sudden stop of intrathecal baclofen therapy can result in serious illness (baclofen withdrawal symptoms), such as:

  • High fever
  • Changed mental status
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Multiple organ-system failure and death (in rare cases)

It’s important to keep your scheduled refill visits so you don’t run out of medication (baclofen) and to understand the early symptoms of baclofen withdrawal, which include:

  • Increase or return in spasticity
  • Itching
  • Low blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tingling sensation

Potential Device Complications

Once the infusion system is implanted, possible device complications may include:

  • Catheter or pump moving within the body or eroding through the skin
  • Leakage, tearing, kinking, or disconnection of the catheter resulting in underdose or lack of baclofen infusion
  • Pump failure leading to overdose or underdose of intrathecal baclofen

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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