Benefits and Risks – Drug Pumps

For many people, drug delivery therapy has increased comfort and the relief of chronic pain so they can rejoin their lives. Some have been able to reduce or even eliminate oral/systemic pain medications. Drug delivery therapy may not take away all of your pain, but it may allow you to do things you haven’t done in a long time, like enjoy a movie from start to finish, keep pace with a friend on a walk, or spend more leisurely time away from home.


Drug delivery therapy offers a number of potential benefits, including:

  • Effective pain relief1-4
  • Reduced or eliminated use of pain medication2,3,5
  • Reduced side effects compared with oral medication1,2,6
  • Improved ability to function and participate in everyday activities1-3,7,8
  • High patient satisfaction1,3,7,8

In addition, this treatment: 

  • Has been proven to be safe and effective when used as directed
  • Does not involve permanent changes to the spinal cord or nerves
  • Can be customized by varying the dosage to accommodate your needs at different times of the day/night or week
  • Lets you try the therapy for a short period of time before committing to long-term therapy
  • Is reversible—the therapy can be turned off, or if desired, it can be surgically removed


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.

See Important safety information for more details. Also, please discuss the benefits and risks of this therapy with your doctor.

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

Why Medtronic Is the Right Choice

You and your doctor have your choice of companies that offer drug delivery therapy for severe chronic pain. It is important that you research these companies and learn about their history with the therapy.

You should know:

  • Medtronic is a worldwide leader in medical technology
  • Medtronic has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with chronic pain using drug delivery therapy
  • More doctors trust Medtronic than any other company offering drug delivery therapy
  • Drug delivery therapy was developed by Medtronic
  • Medtronic offers a programmable drug delivery system that allows MRI scans under certain conditions. Talk to your doctor to learn more
  • The most therapeutic options available to meet your specific pain relief needs are available through Medtronic
  • Both doctors and patients count on Medtronic for the widest education network available. Physicians around the world are familiar with Medtronic drug delivery systems


  1. Duarte RV, Raphael JH, Sparkes E, Southall JL, LeMarchand K, Ashford RL. Long-term intrathecal drug administration for chronic nonmalignant pain. J Neurosurg Anesthesiol. 2012;24:63-70.
  2. Hamza M, Doleys D, Wells M, et al. Prospective study of 3-year follow-up of lowdose intrathecalopioids in the management of chronic nonmalignant pain. Pain Med. 2012;13(10):1304-1313.
  3. Deer T, Chapple I, Classen A, et aI. Intrathecal drug delivery for treatment of chronic low back pain: report from the National Outcomes Registry for Low Back Pain. Pain Med. 2004;5(1):6-13.
  4. Ellis DJ, Dissanayake S, McGuire D, et al. Continuous intrathecal infusion of ziconotide for treatment of chronic malignant and nonmalignant pain over 12 months: a prospective, open-label study. Neuromodulation. 2008;11:40-49.
  5. Atli A, Theodore BR, Turk DC, Loeser JD. Intrathecalopioid therapy for chronic nonmalignant pain: a retrospective cohort study with 3-year follow-up. Pain Med. 2010;11(7):1010-1016.
  6. Smith TJ, Staats PS, Deer T, et al. Randomized clinical trial of an implantable drug delivery system compared with comprehensive medical management for refractory cancer pain: impact on pain, drug-related toxicity, and survival. J Clin Oncol. 2002;20(19):4040-4049.
  7. Roberts U, Finch PM, Goucke CR, Price LM. Outcome of intrathecal opioids in chronic non-cancer pain. Eur J Pain. 2001;5(4):353-361.
  8. Winkelmuller M, Winkelmuller W. Long-term effects of continuous intrathecalopioid treatment in chronic pain of nonmalignant etiology. J Neurosurg.1996;85(3):458-467.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 16 Oct 2015

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