This story reflects the experience of one individual who is receiving Medtronic ITB TherapySM for the treatment of severe spasticity. Medtronic, Inc. invited this person to share this story candidly. As you read it, please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular individual. Results vary; not every response is the same.
In 1980, Cindy was 27 years old and an emergency room nurse. For 10 years she had been experiencing numbness and tingling sensations, had blurred and double vision, and dropped things often.
While cleaning her house one day, Cindy fell and cut her leg. She says when she went to get stitches, "My doctor took one look and told me I needed to go to a neurologist." She was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
By the mid-1980s, "I had gotten to the point where my MS left me with different exhibitions and exacerbations that robbed me of my independence," she says. Her severe spasticity prevented her from swallowing, caused incredible pain, and made her dependent on others to get through daily life. This was her condition for many years.
"I was very spastic. My hands and feet were contracted, and I was totally dependent," she says. She was living at home and growing concerned that her family couldn’t continue to care for her in this condition much longer. Eventually, Cindy’s occupational therapist suggested she talk to a neurologist, who referred her to a neurosurgeon.
The neurosurgeon told Cindy about ITB Therapy, which relieves severe spasticity by using a programmable pump placed just under the skin of the abdomen. The pump is connected to a thin, flexible catheter that delivers anti-spastic medication directly into the area where fluid flows around the spinal cord, called the intrathecal space.
Cindy laughs when she recalls what she and her neurosurgeon set as a treatment goal: to be able to feed herself and not poke her eye out with a fork.
After taking a screening test in 1996 to see if she was a good candidate for a ITB Therapy, Cindy says, "I remember being able to have purposeful movements, and thinking this is going to work for me." Cindy had a successful screening test and went on to have the pump surgically placed.
Prone to seizures, Cindy did have seizures after the surgery to have the pump implanted. "I had some discomfort," she says, "but not pain."
Cindy didn’t experience any additional complications with her surgery. However, some people do experience surgical complications, side effects of the drug, or both. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with ITB Therapy. Some of these risks include meningitis, spinal fluid leak, infection, paralysis, headache, swelling, bleeding, and bruising. Drug-related side effects may include loose muscles, drowsiness, nausea/vomiting, headache, and dizziness.
Until she got used to the feel of the pump, Cindy instinctively placed her hand over it when riding in a wheelchair or in a car. "Over time you don’t even know it’s there," she says.
Cindy had her second pump implanted in 2002 after the battery on her first pump wore out. The average battery life for a pump is 6 to 7 years, and then the pump needs to be replaced.
Having the pump made her physical and occupational therapies "a joy instead of a chore," Cindy says. "Now it was rehabilitation toward independence. I knew I was gaining more use of my arms and legs."
For a short while after she got her pump, Cindy went back to work as an oncology nurse part-time. Today, she runs a kennel from her home, where she raises rare-breed dogs and trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities.
Cindy is now able to live alone and care for herself. She swims, hunts, and is active in her community. "With ITB Therapy," Cindy says, "you can do most anything that you want to do. You just have to figure out how to do it, and you might have to figure out how to do it in a different way."
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.