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Medical Breakthroughs: Baclofen Pump

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It’s been more than 12 years since Michael Wolfe suffered a debilitating stroke.

“I lost the use of my left arm and left leg, left hand,” says Wolfe.

His vision and speech were also affected. But this college professor and soccer fan is more determined than ever to regain the use of his left side.

“I wanted to see if I can get better and I would like to be able to run up and down the soccer field.”

Painful spasms and muscle tightness have hampered his recovery.

“There’s no way they can strengthen muscles when the tone is there, and it doesn’t allow them to fully open their elbow, lift up their wrist, open their fingers,” says neurologist Dr. Mya Schiess.

The baclofen pump
To help restore his movement, Michael is participating in a new study using a device called a Baclofen pump. A small titanium pump was surgically implanted in his side. It releases an anti-spasm drug called Baclofen, which helps loosen up Michael’s muscles.

“A Catheter enters the spinal cord area and then the medicine is actually delivered to the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord,” says Dr. Scheiss.

A computer makes adjustments to the medication that’s released into his body. So far, Michael and his doctors are seeing gradual improvements.

“I can now use both sides of my face to smile or to whistle which I couldn’t do before,” Wolfe says.

Important milestones in Michael’s journey to recovery.

Since the Baclofen in the pump goes directly into the spinal cord, there are fewer side effects. The drug can be sedating when taken orally.

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