Drugs Used to Treat Spasticity

Kita, M.; Goodkin, D.E.
March 2000
Drugs;Mar2000, Vol. 59 Issue 3, p487
Academic Journal
Spasticity is a common and disabling symptom for many patients with upper motor neuron dysfunction. It results from interruption of inhibitory descending spinal motor pathways, and although the pathophysiology of spasticity is poorly understood, the final common pathway is overactivity of the alpha motor neuron. Therapy for spasticity is symptomatic with the aim of increasing functional capacity and relieving discomfort. Any approach to treatment should be multidisciplinary, including physical therapy, and possibly surgery, as well as pharmacotherapy. It is important that treatment be tailored to the individual patient, and that both patient and care giver have realistic expectations. Pharmacotherapy is generally initiated at low dosages and then gradually increased in an attempt to avoid adverse effects. Optimal therapy is the lowest effective dosage. Baclofen, diazepam, tizanidine and dantrolene are currently approved for use in patients with spasticity. In addition, clonidine (usually as combination therapy), gabapentin and botulinum toxin have shown efficacy, however, more studies are required to confirm their place in therapy. Intrathecal baclofen, via a surgically implanted pump and reservoir, may provide relief in patients with refractory severe spasticity.


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