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.

Mary N.’s Story

Living with Spasticity

As an orthopedic surgeon, Mary was comfortable with surgery and the associated risks. But when she went in for a same-day kyphoplasty to stabilise a bone fracture, she didn’t expect to be paralysed by a surgical complication. “They thought it was a blood clot in the spinal cord and that it would get better over time,” she says. “But it didn’t.”

On her second day in the hospital, Mary had a stroke. “Between the two,” she says, “I have a lot of reasons to have the spasticity.”

Oral medications yielded minimal relief for Mary’s severe spasticity. “I can’t describe how awful the spasticity was,” she says. As a single mother of two teenage daughters, Mary was distressed about how foggy the medications made her feel. “I was missing out on my children’s lives.” Plus, her pain made it hard to do chores around the house.

Though her back surgery had resulted in paraplegia, Mary was still open to a surgical solution. The oral medications simply weren’t working, so she decided to explore the possibility of ITB Therapy using a Medtronic implantable pump system.

How ITB Therapy Helped Mary

ITB Therapy 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 a liquid form of anti-spastic medication directly into the area where fluid flows around the spinal cord, called the intrathecal space.

Mary was worried she wouldn’t be a good candidate for Medtronic ITB Therapy. But after undergoing a screening test, her concerns were put to rest. “It was really nice not to have the spasms,” she recalls.

Though the test proved she was a good candidate for the pump, she couldn’t have it implanted for another 4 months because deep vein thrombosis had developed in her leg and needed care.

After the pump was surgically placed, it took another 4 months to get her dosage just right. Since she is on a high dosage, Mary has the pump refilled every month.

The pump has alleviated Mary’s severe spasticity and has allowed her to stop taking all oral medicines for spasticity.

Risks of the Procedure

Mary didn’t experience any 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.

Priority: Motherhood

Before Mary had her pump implanted, her physical therapy focused on controlling the spasticity instead of teaching her how to take care of herself and be independent. The Medtronic pump helped Mary manage her severe spasticity, which made her physical therapy more effective. “Without the spasticity, discomfort, and fogginess, I could really progress,” she says.

Her only misgiving about the pump is cosmetic. “The size of the pump underneath the skin was a little startling, but I think that’s just the body image you have to get used to,” Mary says. “It’s a small price to pay, though. I can’t imagine doing life without it at this point.”

Mary says she now lives “reasonably independently,” raising her two daughters in her home, with some help. “To say [the pump] has made a huge difference doesn’t seem like it’s enough. I’m able to live a fuller life.”

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Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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