Publish date: 08 April 2021

The spasticity team at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) has produced a series of short animated videos, two of which are designed to give reassurance to patients with spasticity due to have intrathecal pump replacement surgery under local anaesthetic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The films were funded by The National Brain Appeal, the charity dedicated to supporting NHNN.

NHNN clinical nurse specialist Liz Keenan co-produced the animations with the intrathecal Baclofen patient and carer experience group, and colleagues.

Intrathecal pumps are used to deliver the drug Baclofen, which helps with spasms, stiffness and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and also sometimes cerebral palsy and stroke.

The pumps need to be replaced every 6.5 years. The procedure can be done either under general or local anaesthetic, the latter is encouraged to keep the patient’s length of stay in hospital as short as possible. The pressure to create bed space at NHNN during the pandemic enabled the spasticity team to develop a pathway for patients to have their pumps replaced as day case surgery.

Liz Keenan said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on so many services necessitating change in a very short space of time. We worked quickly to find a way to shorten the time in hospital for this vulnerable and complex patient group during the pandemic, both for their benefit and also to free up much needed capacity within the hospital. Using local anaesthetic to replace their pumps has been extremely successful and has enabled us to be able to discharge most patients within a few hours.”

Liz continued: “We felt we needed to create the animated videos to help to reduce anxiety for patients and their carers and to visualise the process for them. Having a hospital admission is very difficult for our patient group at any time, but particularly at the moment. Hopefully these short animations explain the process in a clear way. We were fortunate to have an amazing patient and carer group to guide us with every step. The advantage of animation is that it allows us to explain the pathway in a jargon-free, visual way which can be watched numerous times and shared with others. We’re very grateful to The National Brain Appeal for funding the project, enabling us to produce the films very quickly.”  

Patient Jennifer said: “The spasticity team involves patients in every aspect of the patient journey.  As part of the patient experience group we helped to co-produce the animation for pump replacement. I wish when I first had my pump implanted there had been something like this animation to explain what would happen.  Every suggestion that we made was taken on board. I really think the animation will make a big difference to patients requiring a replacement pump. It’s wonderful the team got funded for this piece of work.”

Carer Carolyn commented that the videos were “excellent and so informative”. She said: “No one would know how much thought and effort has been put into it as it sits on the website offering so much clarity and explanation. But well worth it for patients and carers.”

Val Stevenson, NHNN clinical director for neurorehabilitation and spasticity service lead: “This was a fantastic project to be involved with and really demonstrates how teams can work with their patient groups to ensure patient information is truly relevant, accessible and informative to patients and carers. We now have a list of other topics the group would like covered, which is an exciting prospect!”

Theresa Dauncey, chief executive of The National Brain Appeal, said: “The National Brain Appeal is proud to be able to support new initiatives to help patients and staff adapt to the new challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic poses to ongoing care. We work very closely with clinical staff at NHNN to provide help where and when it is most needed, over and above what the NHS can provide. We’re grateful to our loyal donors and fundraisers for their continued support that has helped enable the spasticity team to produce these animated videos for their patients.”

The National Brain Appeal’s funding also enabled the spasticity team to produce four further videos with advice for patients and carers to help manage their spasticity triggers at home.

Links to videos

Replacing your Baclofen pump - episode one:

Replacing your Baclofen pump - episode two:

Managing Spasticity Triggers - Spasticity overview and management - episode 1:

Managing Spasticity Triggers - Bladder and urinary infections - episode 2:

Managing Spasticity Triggers - Skin - episode 3:

Managing Spasticity Triggers - Bowel and spasticity summary - episode 4: