Frequently Asked Questions – Drug Pumps

What is a drug pump?

A drug pump (intrathecal drug delivery system) is designed to reduce chronic pain by delivering pain medication to the intrathecal space that surrounds the spinal cord. Because this treatment delivers pain medication directly to the pain receptors near the spinal cord, smaller doses of medication are required.1-5

How does a drug pump work?

The spinal cord is like a highway for pain signals going to the brain. Because the pump sends medication directly to the area around the spinal cord, it interrupts pain signals before they reach the brain. Results may vary depending upon the individual.

Is a drug pump right for me?

Talk to your doctor to determine what kinds of pain treatments may work for you. The choice of treatment depends on the type of pain, how severe it is, and how you respond to your pain treatment. If your doctor thinks you are a good candidate for a drug pump, you can complete a screening test so that you can experience the therapy to see if you are a good candidate.

Are drug pumps new?

No. Drug pumps have been used in Australia since 1992 and have been used by thousands of people worldwide.

Will drug delivery treatment completely eliminate my pain?

People who do not get adequate pain relief from oral medications can get significant relief from drug delivery treatment.1-5 Drug delivery treatment does not eliminate the source of the pain, so the amount of pain relief varies from person to person.

Will the drug pump eliminate other sources of pain?

Your pump will not provide relief from other types of pain such as headaches, stomachaches, or fractures.

What is the surgery like?

The surgery to implant the system takes approximately 1 to 3 hours and a hospital stay will be required. You should discuss the length of the stay required with your doctor.


  1. Onofrio BM, Yaksh TL. Long-Term Pain Relief Produced by Intrathecal Infusion in 53 Patients. J Neurosurg 1990; 72: 200-209.
  2. Winkelmuller M, Winkelmuller W. Long-Term Effects of Continuous Intrathecal Opioid Treatment in Chronic Pain of Nonmalignant Etiology. J Neurosurg 1996; 85: 458-467.
  3. Paice JA, Penn RD, Shott S. Intraspinal Morphine for Chronic Pain: A Retrospective, Multicenter Study. J Pain Symptom Manage 1996; 11(2): 71-80.
  4. Lamer TJ. Treatment of Cancer-Related Pain: When Orally Administered Medications Fail. Mayo Clin Proc 1994; 69:473-480.
  5. 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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