Annie Collum, BSN, RN is the RIA Senior Manager, Physician Liaison in Denver, Colorado
February 15, 2022minimally invasive, pain management
Intra-thecal Pain Pump
What is an intra-thecal pain pump?
An intra-thecal pain pump is a type of implantable device that is used to deliver very small doses of concentrated medication directly to the nerves in the spinal cord. Intra-thecal pain pumps are a consideration for people who have chronic pain or cancer-related pain that has not responded well to other types of therapy.
A small catheter is placed inside the spine where the nerves and spinal cord sit (intra-thecal space). This catheter is then placed under the skin and then connects to a small, round device called a pain pump. The pain pump is placed under the skin of the belly. The pain pump can be programmed to each patient’s needs, delivering one or more concentrated medications directly to the nerves that are feeling pain. Because this medication is delivered directly to the nerves that are hurting, the amount of pain medication needed to control your pain is drastically decreased compared to what would be needed if the same medicine was taken by mouth. This helps the patient have better pain control and also helps reduce the risk of bad side effects that strong oral or IV narcotics may have.
Who would benefit from an intra-thecal pain pump?
The most common reason a patient will have a pain pump would be because of chronic pain or cancer-related pain. Pain pumps are an FDA-approved alternative when other chronic pain treatments have failed.
Patients who have pain that is not related to a cancer diagnosis must undergo a “pain pump trial” first. During this 10-minute procedure, a tiny needle is placed into the region of the nerves, and morphine is injected. The patient is then monitored to see the effects of the medication. If the trial was very helpful to the patient, then an implanted pain pump would likely also give the same relief (or better). Patients who have cancer-related pain do not have to undergo the trial first.