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What is a Intrathecal Pump?

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An intrathecal pump is a device that delivers medication into your spinal cord through a catheter. It's most common use is to treat pain that originates from the spine with painkillers such as Dilaudid and morphine. An intrathecal morphine pump operates continuously, allowing patients to reduce the medication they must take orally.

Who is a candidate?

The best candidates for an intrathecal morphine pump have severe, chronic back pain that doesn't respond to other treatments. Common causes of this type of pain include cancer, failed back syndrome and reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

Who should not have this procedure?

All patients must pass a screening process before receiving an intrathecal morphine pump. This procedure is contraindicated in patients taking blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin. Patients with active infections should also avoid this procedure.

What is the procedure?

The procedure for implanting an intrathecal morphine pump consists of two stages. The first stage involves the doctor manually injecting the medication to assess its effectiveness and check for any side effects. The doctor will then implant the pump if this trial effectively relieves your pain.

You will typically lie on your side during the implantation procedure, although you may also sit up during this process. Your vital signs will also be monitored, including blood oxygen, blood pressure and heart beat. The doctor will clean your skin with an antiseptic solution and insert a needle into your lower back while using an X-ray machine to guide the correct placement of the needle. The doctor will then insert a catheter through the needle and connect the catheter to a pump. The pump will be attached to the side of your abdomen.

What should I expect?

You will receive a local anesthetic to numb your skin and deeper tissues, although you will still experience some discomfort. You will usually receive a sedative intravenously, making the procedure easier to tolerate.

If you'd like more information about how an intrathecal pump might benefit you for the management of pain. Please contact our Orange County Pain Management clinic