Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes demyelination and axonal loss. Walking difficulties are a common and debilitating symptom of MS; they are usually caused by spastic paresis of the lower extremities. Although intrathecal baclofen (ITB) therapy has been reported to be an effective treatment for spasticity in MS, there is limited published evidence regarding its effects on ambulation. The goal of this study was to characterize ITB therapy outcomes in ambulatory patients with MS.
Data from 47 ambulatory patients with MS who received ITB therapy were analyzed retrospectively. Outcome measures included Modified Ashworth Scale, Spasm Frequency Scale, Numeric Pain Rating Scale, and the Timed 25-Foot Walk. Repeated-measures ANOVA was used to test for changes in outcome measures between baseline and posttreatment (6 months and 1 year). Significance was set at p < 0.05. Descriptive data are expressed as the mean ± SD, and results of the repeated-measures ANOVA tests and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test are expressed as the mean ± SEM.
There was a statistically significant reduction in the following variables: 1) aggregate lower-extremity Modified Ashworth Scale scores (from 14.8 ± 1.0 before ITB therapy to 5.8 ± 0.8 at 6 months posttreatment and 6.4 ± 0.9 at 1 year [p < 0.05]); 2) Numeric Pain Rating Scale scores (4.4 ± 0.5 before ITB, 2.8 ± 0.5 at 6 months, and 2.4 ± 0.4 at 1 year [p < 0.05]); 3) spasm frequency (45.7% of the patients reported a spasm frequency of ≥ 1 event per hour before ITB therapy, whereas 15.6% and 4.3% of the patients reported the same at 6 months and 1 year posttreatment, respectively [p < 0.05]); and 4) the number of oral medications taken for spasticity (p < 0.05). Of the 47 patients, 34 remained ambulatory at 6 months, and 32 at 1 year posttreatment. There was no statistically significant change in performance on the Timed 25-Foot Walk test over time for those patients who remained ambulatory.
In this retrospective study, the authors found that ITB therapy is effective in reducing spasticity and related symptoms in ambulatory patients with MS. Because the use of ITB therapy is increasing in ambulatory patients with MS, randomized, prospective studies are important to help provide a more useful characterization of the effects of ITB therapy on ambulation.