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Continuous intrathecal baclofen infusion for children with cerebral palsy: a pilot study

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Scheinberg, A.; O'Flaherty, S.; Chaseling, R.; Dexter, M.

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether continuous intrathecal baclofen infusion (CIBI) would decrease spasticity and improve function in children with spastic cerebral palsy. DESIGN: Prospective study with measurement of changes from baseline assessed at regular intervals for 6 months following the intervention. PATIENTS: Two subjects aged 8 and 9 years with cerebral palsy. Inclusion criteria included severe spasticity and age greater than 4 years. STUDY CENTRE: Department of Rehabilitation, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Westmead, New South Wales, Australia. RESULTS: Both subjects had clinically significant reductions in lower limb spasticity from a single intrathecal dose of baclofen (screening procedure), and had intrathecal pumps implanted. An intensive physical therapy programme was provided for both subjects in the 1-3-month period after commencing CIBI, in order to maximize functional gains. Modified Ashworth Scale scores remained reduced during the 6-month study period. There was a clinically significant increase in upper limb function for Subject 1. Gross Motor Function Measure scores decreased from 22% to 19% for Subject 1, and increased from 6% to 10% for Subject 2 over the study period. Paediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory scores for Subject 1 showed a reduction in the level of caregiver assistance required, while Subject 2 showed significant improvement in the functional mobility domain. The major changes noted in the parent questionnaires were reduction in tone, increased range of motion and reduced time taken helping with activities of daily living such as toilet and dressing. No significant side-effect was seen after the screening procedure or after continuous intrathecal infusion. Both subjects’ parents felt their child was improved following the intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Children with spastic cerebral palsy can have their spasticity effectively reduced with CIBI. In this study of two children, the clinical improvements were encouraging, and it is proposed that CIBI may be of benefit to those patients whose level of spasticity severely interferes with function. Further studies using multidimensional assessment approaches, with larger numbers of children, are warranted.

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