What Is a Drug Pump
Unlike medications that circulate throughout your body in your bloodstream, drug delivery therapy releases medication directly into the fluid surrounding your spinal cord which may lead to fewer or more tolerable drug side effects.
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 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’s office for more medicine when the pump needs to be filled.
How Intrathecal Drug Pump Works
The pump releases prescribed amounts of pain medication through the catheter directly to the fluid around the spinal cord, in an area called the intrathecal space. The pain medication approved for use in the pump include morphine sulphate and ziconotide.
Many people experience significant improvements in their pain symptoms and quality of life after receiving Medtronic drug delivery therapy. However, realistic expectations are essential to satisfaction with any pain treatment. Drug delivery therapy cannot eliminate the source of your pain or cure any underlying disease, but it may help you to better manage your pain.
Advantages Over Other Therapies
Drug delivery therapy offers advantages over other therapies for severe chronic pain:
- A screening test serves as a temporary evaluation period so you can see if drug delivery therapy relieves your pain before committing to long-term therapy
- It does not have to be a permanent procedure like back surgery. The system can be turned off or surgically removed if you do not like it or of you decide to pursue a different treatment
- Unlike oral medications, drug delivery therapy releases medication directly into the fluid surrounding your spinal cord rather than traveling throughout your body in your bloodstream. This may lead to fewer side effects, such as nausea and constipation
- Drug delivery therapy may provide relief when other treatments – like medications or injections – have not
Risks of Drug Delivery Therapy
The implanted pump and catheter are surgically placed under the skin. Surgical complications are possible and include infection, spinal fluid leak, and headache. You should not undergo the implant procedure if you have an active infection at the time scheduled for implant.
Once the infusion system is implanted, device complications may occur which may require surgery to resolve. Drug overdose or underdose can result because of these complications and have serious and even life-threatening adverse effects. Possible complications include the catheter or pump moving within the body or wearing through the skin. The catheter could leak, tear, kink, or become disconnected. The pump could stop because the battery has run out or because of failure of another part of the infusion system. Additionally, inflammatory masses have been reported at the tip of the catheter which may lead to complications, including paralysis. Please discuss the benefits and risks of this therapy with our board-certified pain management physician.
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