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.

Julie’s Story

Living with Spasticity

Julie, multiple sclerosis patient

Julie, living with multiple sclerosis

Julie was working full time as a doctor’s aide when she experienced the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1987. "I thought the trouble was just fatigue," Julie recalls. Soon, she was experiencing numbness around her waist and spasticity in her legs and hands, in addition to a general feeling of exhaustion.

Over the next several years, Julie’s spasticity worsened. "Sometimes when I was sitting down, my legs would stiffen right up and straighten out in front of me. They wouldn’t even bend at the knees. That was scary."

As Julie’s spasticity continued to increase, she reduced her work schedule to just 2 days a week and started using a wheelchair. Although doctors recommended admitting Julie to a nursing home, her husband chose to care for her himself.

Initial Treatments

Julie tried various treatments for her severe spasticity. Physical therapy and muscle injections helped occasionally, but her muscles would quickly tighten back up. Oral medications proved effective, but high doses caused debilitating side effects. Julie’s doctor suggested ITB Therapy.

How ITB Therapy Helped Julie

ITB Therapy relieves severe spasticity 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 body’s intrathecal space, where fluid flows around the spinal cord.

Julie took a screening test to see if ITB Therapy would relieve her symptoms. "My legs were really stiff that day," she remembers. "But within an hour after the test injection, they started to loosen up. A couple hours later, the doctor was able to bend them further than they’d been able to bend in years."

Risks of the Procedure

The day after her screening test, Julie underwent successful pump implantation. However, she did experience severe headaches, a side effect that sometimes occurs during the procedure due to loss of spinal fluid.

Julie didn’t experience any additional complications with her surgery. However, some people do experience additional 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, swelling, bleeding, and bruising. Drug-related side effects may include loose muscles, drowsiness, nausea/vomiting, headache, and dizziness.

"What a Difference!"

"After the surgery, my severe spasticity significantly improved," says Julie. "What a difference! I can do things I haven’t been able to do in years." Julie increased her work schedule to 4 days a week, started camping with her family, and took up water aerobics and horseback riding.

Julie periodically visits her doctor, who tracks the progress of her multiple sclerosis. "I never imagined I’d be walking without a cane and working almost fulltime again," says Julie. "I feel very fortunate."

Although she still works 4 days a week, Julie recently had to change to a desk job. “I work in dermatology as a scheduler along with performing several other duties. My episodes of MS exacerbation have significantly decreased since starting the ITB Therapy. I am walking without a cane even after having major back surgery where I had Harrington rods put in - C3 to L3 - in April, 2008.”

This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

Last updated: 22 Sep 2010

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