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Managing Spasticity in Children
with Oral Baclofen

Disclaimer: This information sheet is for education purposes only. Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for your child.

What is oral baclofen and how does it work?

Oral medications, which are sometimes given to reduce spasticity, include diazepam, dantrolene sodium and baclofen. We tend to use oral baclofen more commonly now, as we feel it has fewer side effects than the others do. Baclofen works similarly to a naturally occurring hormone in the body called GABA, which helps in the relaxation of muscles. GABA is reduced when the brain or spinal cord is injured, resulting in stiffness (spasticity) of muscles.

The dose of baclofen is calculated according to your child's weight. Your doctor may recommend a trial of this medication and give you a plan of how to increase the dose over several weeks to the correct level. In most cases, the medication is given 3 or 4 times each day. You should start to see positive effects within several weeks of starting the medication. These may include reduced stiffness and spasm, less pain, better sleep and greater ease participating in therapy programs, particularly muscle stretching exercises. Some children who are more mobile may notice an improvement in their function (such as walking or use of upper limbs) with this medication.

Although your child may have positive effects when taking baclofen, side effects may occur. The most common of these is drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, nausea or weakness. Weakness may be most evident in sitting posture and head control. Baclofen may also make seizure control more difficult in children who have epilepsy. If you notice any unusual effects in your child, you should report them to your doctor.

If you decide to stop baclofen after consultation with your specialist, the dose should be slowly reduced over 1 week to avoid any problems with withdrawal from the medication. After ceasing baclofen, we would expect your child's spasticity to increase again to the level it was at prior to commencing the medication.

Should you wish to have more information on oral baclofen, or any other spasticity management, please contact one of the following Paediatric Rehabilitation Specialists.

  • Dr Adam Scheinberg (02) 9845 2132
  • Dr Stephen O'Flaherty (02) 9845 2819
  • Dr Mary-Clare Waugh (02) 9845 2131

For more information about treatment of Spasticity please refer to links below:

The Children's Hospital at Westmead Rehabilitation Department
The Children's Hospital at Westmead
Cnr Hawkesbury Rd & Hainsworth St, Westmead
Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, 2145
Tel: (02) 9845 2132 - Fax: (02) 9845 0685

© The Children's Hospital at Westmead - 1997-2013

This document was published on Friday, 6 June 2003

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