Evaluation of the cognitive benefits of intrathecal baclofen pump implantation in people with intractable multiple sclerosis related spasticity

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 May;50:102831. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.102831. Epub 2021 Feb 10.

Abstract

Background: Spasticity is a common problematic symptom in Multiple Sclerosis with over one third of patients failing first line therapies. Intrathecal baclofen is a safe and efficacious option for treatment resistant spasticity. Anecdotally patients report improved concentration/cognitive performance when switching to intrathecal baclofen (ITB) from systemic medications.

Aim: To explore whether subjects who proceed with ITB pump implantation for spasticity management and reduce oral anti-spasticity agents will have improved cognitive function.

Methods: Subjects were admitted for trial of ITB via lumbar puncture and subsequent pump implantation. Spasticity and cognitive measures before ITB trial and 3 months post implant were recorded. Paired t-test or Wilcoxon Signed Ranks test was used for within subject change and effect sizes (Cohen's dz) were calculated. Subgroup analysis of those on ≥2, or ≤ 1 spasticity medications at baseline was performed.

Results: 27 subjects with MS completed per protocol. Mean age 46 years [26 - 56], disease duration 15 years [6 - 26], RRMS = 3, SPMS = 17 and PPMS=7. The majority were on multiple spasticity medications. Spasticity scores significantly improved post pump implant. Mean ITB dose at 3 months was 143 mcg / day and 19 discontinued all other treatments for spasticity. There was no deterioration on any cognitive or mood measure. An improvement of moderate effect size was found in Backwards Digit Span (d=0.41, p=0.059) and HADS - anxiety (d=0.37, p=0.097). Fatigue Severity Scale score decreased substantially (d=0.81, p=0.005). Small improvements in Symbol Digit Modalities Test score (d=0.24) and Sustained Attention to Response Task response time (d=0.23) were non-significant. Performance on other measures did not change. Effect sizes were larger in subgroup on ≥2 oral spasticity medications at baseline, compared to the group on ≤1 medication (SDMT, d=0.42 vs d=0.07; Backwards digit span 0.45 vs 0.28; HADS-anxiety 0.39 vs 0.32; HADS-depression d=0.32 vs 0.05 and FSS, d= 1.14 vs 0.42).

Conclusions: In a pilot study exploring the impact of ITB on cognition, spasticity scores improved universally and beneficial effects on some measures of fatigue, anxiety, auditory attention and verbal working memory were found. Improvement of speed of processing in those withdrawing higher doses of oral medication was also demonstrated suggesting that switching to ITB has added cognitive and psychological benefits for people with MS.

Keywords: Cognition; Fatigue; Intra-thecal baclofen; Mood; Multiple sclerosis; Spasticity.

MeSH terms

  • Baclofen / therapeutic use
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / complications
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / drug therapy
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central* / therapeutic use
  • Muscle Spasticity / drug therapy
  • Muscle Spasticity / etiology
  • Pilot Projects

Substances

  • Muscle Relaxants, Central
  • Baclofen