OBJECTIVE--To investigate whether the dose of intrathecal baclofen necessary for a sufficient reduction of muscle tone and spasms changes during treatment of severe spasticity. METHODS--A group of 27 patients received intrathecal baclofen for 61 (SD 18) months. RESULTS--Spasticity remained absent or strongly reduced after stopping the intrathecal baclofen infusion in seven patients. The dose of baclofen could be reduced to 40% of that dose which was originally necessary in 10 patients. The dose remained the same or increased slightly in 10 patients. Possible reasons for the continuing reduction of spasticity after terminating long term intrathecal baclofen infusion in some patients could be: lasting morphological changes in spinal cord neurons by second messenger controlled modulation of gene expression, a toxic effect of baclofen on spinal neurons, muscular atrophy, inflammation due to the catheter, or progression of multiple sclerosis. CONCLUSIONS--A higher initial daily dose of intrathecal baclofen might lead to a faster, lasting suppression of spasticity and the development of spastic symptoms might even be prevented by pre-emptive treatment with baclofen in patients with newly acquired lesions of the spinal cord.
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