Intrathecal baclofen (ITB) is a reversible treatment that reduces muscle tone to ameliorate spasticity and dystonia in patients with cerebral palsy (CP). The resulting decrease in energy expenditure allows patients to gain much-needed weight, albeit temporarily. Modern techniques require sufficient abdominal musculature and subcutaneous fat to permit the implantation of an indwelling pump. In patients with extremely low muscle bulk, visceral pumps may be impractical or impossible, with increased risks of dehiscence and infection. The authors describe a variation of the classical procedure in a young patient with severe cachexia.
A 10-year-old boy with spastic-dystonic quadriplegic CP was admitted to the neuromedical unit. Numerous drug trials had failed, and surgical intervention was deemed necessary but was complicated by his cachectic body habitus. The authors inserted a lumbar intrathecal catheter and subcutaneously tunneled it to the anterolateral abdomen, where it was connected to a subcutaneous injection port. Baclofen was continuously infused into the subcutaneous port using a noncoring needle connected to an external pump. The needle and line were changed every 5 days to minimize the risk of sepsis.
Although other techniques, such as intraventricular baclofen delivery, have been described, these are largely dependent upon sufficient musculature to support a visceral pump. A subcutaneous injection port system represents an alternative approach that reduces the risk of sepsis and may be better tolerated in cachectic patients.