An intrathecal pump (or pain pump) is a small medical device that is surgically placed in the body. The pain pump delivers medicine directly into the intrathecal space of the spinal cord from its own reservoir. The pump is connected to a small catheter which administers medications around the spinal cord.
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Intrathecal Pump | How It Works
The spinal cord (and the spinal cord nerves) receive pain signals and send them through the body. With an intrathecal pain pump, medication is delivered directly, bypassing the path that oral medications take. This allows for pain symptoms to be treated more effectively with less body-wide side effects. Pain symptoms can also be managed with a smaller dose of medication.
Patients who have an intrathecal pain pump will not have to remember to take their oral medications because the pump will self-administer.
A pain pump can be an ideal solution for those who have suffered from a failed back surgery, cancer pain, sciatica, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and/or chronic pancreatitis
For others, a pain pump could be utilized to treat the pain symptoms of other underlying conditions. For example, the intrathecal pain pump can lessen spasticity (muscle spasms and rigidity) caused by:
An intrathecal pain pump can provide effective pain relief, reduced side effects from oral medications, and improve the quality of your life.
Intrathecal Pump Trial
Potential candidates for a permanent pain pump will first have a trial procedure. This trial pump procedure will help determine if the patient will be a good candidate for a permanent pump placement.
An intrathecal pain pump trial can help determine how successful a permanent implant will be and the appropriate amount of medication it will take to treat your pain symptoms. The titration (or dosage information) will establish the appropriate amount of medication needed to provide the patient with the maximum pain relief with minimal side effects.
A pump trial will place a cathaeter in the intrathecal space, closely resembling the experience of a permanently placed pump. The catheter and the pump are worn outside of the body, and will administer medication to ease the patient’s pain.
Pump trials are performed on an outpatient procedure, and may last several days. If the patient experiences 50% relief (or more) from their pain symptoms the trial is considered successful. With a positive result from the pain pump trial, a patient can move forward with a permanently placed intrathecal pump.
Intrathecal Pump Implant
After a successful trial, the patient will be able to move forward with getting their pain pump implanted. Neurosurgeons who specialize in pain management will implant the pain pump.
The procedure will be done with general anesthesia, and a small incision made in the middle back to place the catheter and another incision made to the side of the abdomen for the pump. The catheter is attached to the pump (which has the reservoir with medication). The surgeon fills the reservoir with medication during the placement.
Pain pumps can be programmed to suit individual pain needs allowing for more effective management of chronic pain.
With a more targeted delivery of medication patients are able to mitigate their pain with lower doses of medication.
Post Pump Implant
A full recovery after having the intrathecal pump surgically implanted may take 6-8 weeks. Patients will be limited to light activity, with some restrictions on their movement. The patient will then have to return to their pain management practice periodically to have the reservoir refilled with more medication. Patients will also be able to discuss with their specialists if doses need to be adjusted and their health journey goals.
How To Get Started
If you would like more information about an intrathecal pain pump or the pump trial, please call Pain and Spine Specialists and speak to our dedicated team to improve the quality of your life. You can call (301) 703-8767 (Maryland Locations), (724) 603-3560 (Pennsylvania Locations), or (540) 433-1905 (Virginia Locations) and schedule an appointment today.
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