Intrathecal Pain Pumps

Medical jargon is so vast and esoteric that when a physician described your upcoming procedure, it can sometimes be more daunting than comforting. For this reason knowing what tools are being used around your body is beneficial. In this article we will define and explain intrathecal pain pumps.

An intrathecal pain pump is a small pump that is surgically inserted under the skin of a patient’s abdomen so that medication can be injected directly through a catheter into the patient’s intrathecal space. This is the area around the spinal cord. The pump itself is a round metal device, which can be compared to the size of a hockey puck. An area called the reservoir is where the medicine is stored. These pain pumps are designed to gradually release the appropriate amount of mediation over time. In fact, it can release various amounts at different points. When the reservoir is empty, the doctor or nurse refills it through a needle. Intrathecal pain pumps are used as a method to relieve chronic pain, as well as to reduce oral intake of medication. It is usually suggested if other usual methods have failed to alleviate the patient’s long term pain.

How does the pump work? In order to answer that, it is important to discuss some anatomy associated with it. The subarachnoid, also known as the intrathecal space, is a fluid filled space that surrounds the spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid travels through this space. One of the fluid’s main purposes is to protect the brain and central nervous system. It also cycles nutrients and chemicals from the blood and removes waste products from the brain. It is in this cerebrospinal fluid where the medicine is inserted.

Some benefits for the intrathecal pain pump is that it is more effective than oral medication. In addition, because the medication is being given directly into the area of interest, smaller doses are required in comparison to if it was taken orally. Fortunately, if the patient is a bit hesitant in whether or not they want to have the pumps for a long time, a trial period is available. After the trial period, the patient can decide whether or not intrathecal pain pumps are for them. It is not guaranteed that such pumps will work for everyone; however, for those that it has worked on, it has been stated to improve their everyday lives. Even if a patient has the pump after the trial period, the therapy is completely reversible, so it can be removed whenever. The pump also has a memory storage, where it allows doctors to review various information about the pump, including the prescription amount.

However, there are also negative sides to the pumps. There may be issues when it comes to the patient’s surgery, including but not limited to infection or a spinal fluid leak. It is advised to avoid the surgery if you have an infection during the date of the surgery. If there were also any complications with the device, additional surgery will be required in order to fix that problem. The device may even malfunction, resulting in a drug overdose or underdose. Any of those two options can result in a fatal accident. The catheter itself may may move out of place or tear.

Whether or not a patient should use an intrathecal pain pump both depends a mixture of things. It could depend on their own choice, on how serious their symptoms are, on if there is no other options, or on the doctor’s recommendation. However, here is a list of criteria that a person can look over to decide if the pain pumps are the right fit for them. A patient may want to try out intrathecal pain pumps if other traditional methods have failed, if they have no medical conditions that would impede surgery, if they are not allergic to any of the medication that will be in the pump, if they have successfully passed the trial period, or if they are currently taking oral medication. Please note that this is not a full list, and there are also many other factors that may play into whether or not a person may want to be a candidate for intrathecal pain pumps.

 

References:

  1. https://www.spinemd.com/treatments/intrathecal-pain-pump
  2. https://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-PUMP.htm
  3. http://www.tamethepain.com/chronic-pain/drug-delivery-therapy-system/benefits-risks/index.htm
  4. http://www.apmhealth.com/treatments-offered/intrathecal-pump-implant
  5. https://www.spine-health.com/treatment/pain-management/spinal-cord-stimulators-and-pain-pumps-implantable-systems-neuropathy
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