Content » Vol 53, Issue 7

Review article

Effectiveness and safety of cervical catheter tip placement in intrathecal baclofen treatment of spasticity: A systematic review

Nora W. Jacobs, Ellen M. Maas, Marjolein Brusse-Keizer, Hans J.S. Rietman
Rehabilitation, Roessingh Center for Rehabilitation, Enschede, The Netherlands: E-mail:
DOI: 10.2340/16501977-2857


Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness and safety of intrathecal baclofen treatment of spasticity, administered via a cervical catheter tip.
Design: A review of PubMed and the Cochrane Library up to September 2020. No restriction in study design. Two reviewers independently evaluated eligibility, extracted data and evaluated risk of bias. Studies were included in which patients were treated with intrathecal baclofen for spasticity, with the catheter tip at or above the first thoracic level, independent of diagnosis and age.
Results: Thirteen studies were eligible, with a moderate to critical risk of bias. Improvement in spasticity was seen only in the upper extremity in 6% of subjects, only in the lower extremity in 2%, in both upper and lower extremities in 50% and without specification of location in 41%. Upper extremity function improved in 88% of cases. Neither drug-related (1%) nor technical (21%) complications occurred more often than in lower placement of the tip. Effects on respiratory function and sleep apnoea were not investigated.
Conclusion: Cervically administered intrathecal baclofen seems to improve upper extremity spasticity and function, without causing more complications than thoracolumbar intrathecal baclofen. However, the mainly drug-related complications have not been thoroughly investigated and the available literature is of poor methodological quality. Further research is needed to confirm the efficacy and safety of this procedure.

Lay Abstract

Spasticity is a common complication in central neurological disorders. It can lead to discomfort and functional limitations. To reduce spasticity, administration of baclofen via a catheter into the spinal canal has been used successfully for several years. However, this treatment often has limited effects on the upper limbs. The catheter tip is often situated in the thoracolumbar region. This review suggests that baclofen treatment via a cervically located catheter tip reduces spasticity of both arms and legs. Also, arm function improved in patients with a cervical catheter tip. Neither drug-related nor technical complications occurred more often than in lower placement of the cervical catheter tip. Few studies were found on this subject, and the available literature is of poor quality. Therefore, more research is needed to confirm the positive effect of this procedure on spasticity of the arms and to monitor for complications.


Do you want to comment on this paper? The comments will show up here and if appropriate the comments will also separately be forwarded to the authors. You need to login/create an account to comment on articles. Click here to login/create an account.