Muscle-paralyzing Drug Weakens Muscles, Helping Elasticity, Doctor Says

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Some Baltimore-area doctors are using Botox -- a drug that paralyzes muscles -- to help stoke victims.

Botox is probably best known for it's wrinkle-reducing effect because it works by temporarily paralyzing muscles in the face, WBAL-TV 11 Health Alert reporter Donna Hamilton reported.

Jennifer Walker, 43, had a stroke seven years ago. She has come a long way since then, but she still has problems with her left arm and fingers. "I didn't have any control over it whatsoever, it was like the muscle had a mind of it's own and it started to pull my wrist in that direction," she said.

To loosen up her spastic muscles, her doctor started her on Botox injections -- the same Botox used to reduce wrinkles.

"The Botox weakens those muscles so that reduces that muscle overactivity and you can find that you can move the limb much more easily," her doctor, Dr. Scott Brown, said.

Brown, who practices at Baltimore's Sinai Hospital, uses a special machine and needle to measure muscle activity in Walker's arm. He explained his procedure as he put the needle inside Walker's arm.

"You can see there's a lot of activity going on in the muscle, especially as I stretch it. And then, I release it, and then it increases again, and that's the spasticity talking," Brown said.

Brown repeated the injections to the spot in Walker's arm several times, and within hours, she felt a difference -- especially in her fingers that were curled and painful.

"As the Botox kicks in, they'll start to relax, and I don't sit and have to hold them like I do most of the time. I kind of stretch them because, as long as they're curled, they're hurting," she said.

And the injections keep Walker pain-free for about three to four months at a time.

"It really has increased my quality of life, it really has," Walker said.

Brown said Botox can be used to treat a variety of problems stemming from brain injuries, strokes or even spinal cord injuries.

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