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Medications such as baclofen that are typically used to treat spasticity can cause a number of side effects. If you or your child has been diagnosed with spasticity, you want relief from your symptoms, not more symptoms. When medications are not an option, our team at the UCLA Neuromodulation for Movement Disorders and Pain Program offers surgical treatment options.
What is spasticity?
Spasticity is a muscle disorder that causes overactive reflexes and muscle stiffness.
It can be caused by lesions in the brain or spinal cord. Everyone has reflexes, but in patients with spasticity, these lesions destroy the pathways from the brain that control them. They are caused by brain and spinal cord injuries, including:
- Spinal Cord Injury
- Brain Injury
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Cerebral Palsy
People diagnosed with spasticity may experience the following symptoms:
- Overactive reflexes
- Involuntary movements
- Abnormal postures that can be painful and prevent the patient from lying down, driving and sleeping
- Severe muscle stiffness that may lead to permanent muscle contractions
Surgical treatment options for spasticity at UCLA
If you've been diagnosed with spasticity, your doctor will first prescribe medications: diazepam, dantrolene or baclofen. When patients experience too many side effects from these drugs, or they don't work very well, doctors recommend surgical treatments:
- Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy: Intentionally cuts selected nerves that transmit the spasticity signals to the muscles.
- Intrathecal Baclofen Therapy: Surgically implants pumps that administer baclofen directly into the spinal canal, where it is far more potent and has fewer side effects.
Find out more about intrathecal baclofen therapy.