An intrathecal pain pump is an implanted, programmable device that delivers pain medication to the space surrounding the spinal cord (intrathecal space). This device helps prevent pain signals from being sent to the brain. When a patient is feeling pain, he or she can use an external unit to dispense the appropriate amount of medication to affected areas. Candidates for this procedure generally include patients who have not experienced relief from conservative or interventional pain treatment, and patients who are not considered candidates for spine surgery. An intrathecal pain pump requires medication refills every few months.
What To Expect
Similar to spinal cord stimulation, patients must first go through a trial procedure before a permanent intrathecal pain pump can be implanted. During the permanent procedure, general anesthesia is administered to relax the patient and minimize his or her discomfort. Next, the operation site is thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before a small incision is made into the intrathecal space. A hollow needle will be placed through the incision to help physician place a permanent catheter.
Once the catheter is implanted, the pump is placed under the skin in the abdomen or buttocks. The catheter and pump are then connected so the device can administer the patient's medication successfully. Pumps typically last anywhere from three to five years, so patients will need to undergo additional procedures to replace their pumps. The hollow needle is then removed and the incision is closed.
Following the procedure, patients are transported to a separate room to recover. Once the patient has received a thorough post-surgical evaluation, he or she will be sent home to continue their recovery. Patients may experience mild swelling, bruising, and itching near the incision site. A TriState Pain Institute physician should examine patients with symptoms that are severe and last for more than several days or weeks. Strenuous activity should be avoided for several weeks.