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How Does a Pain Pump Work?

How Does a Pain Pump Work?

For certain individuals with chronic pain, implantable pain pumps provide an effective solution to their discomfort and dysfunction, especially when other more conservative interventions aren’t enough.

Keep reading to learn more about the fascinating and innovative mechanisms of pain pumps and why these devices can be so valuable for personalized pain management.

What Is a Pain Pump?

A pain pump sometimes called an intrathecal pain pump or implantable drug delivery system is a small, battery-operated medical device that delivers pain-relieving medication directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) surrounding the spinal cord.

A pain pump sits just beneath the skin on a patient’s lower back in the flank area. The pump is attached to a small flexible tube called a catheter, which leads directly into an area in the lower spine called the intrathecal space. The intrathecal space holds the CSF surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Medication flows from the pump to the intrathecal space through the small catheter.

Potential Benefits of Intrathecal Pain Pumps

Eligible candidates for pain pumps can expect to enjoy a number of benefits, including:

  • Less medication: because pain pumps deliver medicine directly to the nerves and spinal cord where pain-relieving drugs take effect, patients can achieve their desired relief more quickly and with smaller doses compared to oral medications—this helps reduce the risk of side effects as well as opioid misuse and addiction
  • Convenience and privacy: pain pumps are invisible to the naked eye and can be programmed to deliver a slow, constant stream of pain medication, providing the patient with a consistent and discreet pain management solution

Getting a Pain Pump: What to Expect

If a patient is determined to be eligible for a pain pump, their pain management team will schedule the implantation, which is typically done as an outpatient procedure in an ambulatory surgical center.

During the procedure, the patient is given medication to make them fall asleep and remain comfortable. A doctor makes a small incision over the patient’s lower back and inserts the pump about an inch beneath the skin. The catheter is also implanted beneath the skin through a small incision over the lower spine and is then attached to the pump.

Pain pumps are battery-operated and can be controlled by a small external device outside the body. The doctor can use this device to determine the dose and frequency of the pain medication delivered into the patient’s intrathecal space. The pump will need to be refilled with pain medicine about every 1 to 3 months, and its battery will need to be replaced about every 5 to 7 years.

Want to improve your chances of having a successful pain pump procedure? Look for a pain clinic that also has an ambulatory surgical center, such as Integrated Pain Solution’s Gemini Surgery Center. Our Surgery Center is staffed by some of the area’s leading pain specialists and offers state-of-the-art technology along with excellence in care to help you enjoy better outcomes.

Who Is Eligible for a Pain Pump?

Your pain management team can help you determine if a pain pump is right for you. Our Columbus pain doctors rely on best practice guidelines and decades of experience to identify which of our patients are a good fit for this advanced technology.

Generally, we recommend intrathecal pain pumps for people with terminal illnesses such as cancer, or people with chronic pain conditions like failed back surgery syndrome, chronic pancreatitis, peripheral nerve injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions that cause persistent muscle spasms. Pain pumps are usually contraindicated in the following situations:

  • When someone has an infection in the blood (bacteremia), skin (cellulitis), or brain or spinal cord (e.g., meningitis, ventriculitis)
  • When someone lacks sufficient body mass to support the weight and bulk of a pain pump device
  • When someone has spinal abnormalities that can negatively affect the placement of the catheter

Whether you could benefit from a pain pump or another solution, our team can offer a wide range of treatments and technologies that will help you enjoy meaningful relief and reclaim the active lifestyle you miss so much!

Could an Intrathecal Pain Pump Be Right for You?

If you’re interested in learning more about pain pump technology or wondering if this innovative device could help you live with less pain, contact Integrated Pain Solutions today at 614-383-6450 to connect with our Columbus pain management specialists. We also have two additional locations for convenient service to our neighbors in Springfield and Dublin, OH. Call today!