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.
Jenny had been a competitive gymnast since she was three years old. She was 16, tumbling outside on wet grass, when she injured her spinal cord.
After her injury, Jenny had spasticity. She took oral medications to control her spasticity, but they made it hard for her to stay awake. “I was in college and falling asleep,” she says.
She could sit in hour-long classes at college and be fine as long as she didn’t move. “But after the first time I moved,” she says, “my legs would spasm, my back would spasm. Thankfully I was never tossed out of the chair.”
When the drugs that made her so groggy still didn’t control the severe spasticity, her doctor told her about Medtronic ITB Therapy.
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.
In 1992, Jenny had a screening test to see if she would be a good candidate for a Medtronic pump. The results were positive and the next day she had the pump surgically placed.
After the surgery, Jenny had a spinal headache, which subsided after she lay flat for several days.
Jenny 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.
Jenny recently had her fourth pump implanted, and has now had a pump continuously for 16 years. The pump battery lasts an average of 6 to 7 years, so the pump needs to be replaced periodically. The life of the battery is affected by how much medication the pump is programmed to deliver. Jenny’s first two pumps each lasted 5 years, while the third pump was replaced at 6 years. While the battery was okay, she explained that she didn’t want to risk the battery dying while she was overseas.
Jenny has learned the importance of maintaining regular refill appointments. Twice she has run out of anti-spastic medication a few days before her scheduled refill. The resulting withdrawals caused a return of her severe spasticity, causing convulsions, fever, and short-term memory loss. These symptoms were relieved by an immediate refill, and her alarm date for future refills was moved up.
Life with a pump has meant Jenny has stopped taking all oral medications, except valium at night to help her back. She has a minor amount of spasticity that she says doesn’t get in the way of daily activities.
“I can easily say ITB Therapy is one of the best things I ever did,” Jenny says. “By managing my spasticity, it’s allowed me to be independent. I live on my own; I can get dressed; I can do transfers. I’m able to travel internationally.”
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.