Overview & Procedure
An intrathecal pain pump is a surgically implanted drug delivery system that sends pain medication directly to the spinal cord. This unique treatment option may be recommended to patients who have not experienced adequate pain relief from conservative therapies, such as over-the-counter painkillers, ice, and rest. Intrathecal pain pumps are ideal for patients wanting to reduce their dependence on oral medications. Because intrathecal pain pumps deliver medication directly to the spinal cord, less medicine is needed to provide the same amount of pain relief. Over time, patients experience sustained pain relief while reducing their risk of medication-related side effects.
Similar to spinal cord stimulation, an intrathecal pain pump requires a trial period before a permanent device can be implanted. If the trial is successful, patients can undergo the procedure to receive a permanent pain pump. Before the surgery, an intravenous line is started for the patient to reduce pain and discomfort throughout the procedure. Once the anesthetic has taken effect, the physician will make a small incision in the patient’s back before placing a catheter into the intrathecal space above the spinal cord. This catheter is then sutured along the subarachnoid and connected to a small pump. Another incision will be made in the abdomen to place the pump between layers of the skin and muscle. Both incisions are then closed, and the patient is sent to a separate room to recover.
After the procedure, the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, pain levels, and respiration are monitored by the physician. After care instructions will be given to the patient upon discharge, but generally speaking, patients will be asked to avoid strenuous, physical activity for six to eight weeks. Additionally, patients may be prohibited from driving and completing housework for two to four weeks. Any signs of a fever, infection, increased pain, redness, or swelling should be reported to a Southwest Spine & Pain Center physician immediately.