What Is a Drug Pump?


Drug pumps (intrathecal drug delivery systems) deliver pain medication to the fluid-filled area surrounding the spinal cord (called the intrathecal space). Because pain medication goes directly to the area around the spine, a drug pump may offer significant pain control using a small fraction of the dose that oral medication requires.1-3

About the Drug Delivery System

The system consists of a pump and catheter, both of which are surgically placed under the skin. The pump is a round device that stores and delivers pain medication. It is typically placed in your abdomen. The catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is inserted into your spine and connected to the pump.

During the surgery, your doctor fills the pump with pain medication using a needle. The pump sends the medication through the catheter to the spinal area where pain receptors are located. You return to your doctor for more medicine when the pump needs to be refilled.

How It Works

The spinal cord is like a highway for pain signals that are heading to the brain. When the pump sends pain medication directly to the spine, it interrupts the pain signals before they reach the brain.

References

  1. Onofrio BM, Yaksh TL. Long-Term Pain Relief Produced by Intrathecal Infusion in 53 Patients. J Neurosurg 1990; 72: 200-209.
  2. Lamer TJ. Treatment of Cancer-Related Pain: When Orally Administered Medications Fail. Mayo Clin Proc 1994; 69:473-480.
  3. Portenoy RK. Management of Common Opioid Side Effects During Long-Term Therapy of Cancer Pain. Ann Acad Med 1994; 23:160-170.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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