Questions and Answers – Drug Pumps

What is a drug pump?

A drug pump (intrathecal drug delivery system) is designed to reduce severe chronic pain by delivering pain medication to the intrathecal space that surrounds the spinal cord. Unlike medications that circulate throughout your body in your bloodstream, drug delivery therapy releases medication directly into the fluid surrounding your spinal cord which may lead to fewer or more tolerable drug side effects.

How does a drug pump work?

When the pump and catheter release prescribed amounts of pain medication directly to the receptors near the spine, it interrupts the pain signals before they reach the brain. You return to your doctor’s office for more medication when the pump needs to be refilled.

Is a drug pump right for me?

Talk to your doctor to determine what kinds of pain treatments would work for you. The choice of treatment depends on the type of pain, how severe it is, and how you respond to your pain treatment. If your doctor thinks you are a good candidate for a drug pump, you can complete a screening test so that you can experience the therapy to see if you are a good candidate.

Is the pump new?

No. The pump has been approved by the FDA since 1991 and has helped thousands of people worldwide.

Will drug delivery treatment completely eliminate my pain?

Many people experience significant improvements in their pain symptoms and quality of life after receiving Medtronic drug delivery therapy. However, realistic expectations are essential to satisfaction with any pain treatment. Drug delivery therapy cannot eliminate the source of your pain or cure any underlying disease, but it may help you to better manage your severe chronic pain.

Will the drug pump eliminate other sources of pain?

Your pump will not provide relief from other types of pain, such as headaches, stomachaches, or fractures.

What is the surgery like?

The surgery to implant the system takes approximately 1 to 3 hours and a brief hospital stay.

What do I need to know about opioids (pain medication) used in my pump?

Some doctors choose to use an opioid medication in the drug pump. There are risks associated with the use of any opioid pain medication. For more details, see opioid pain medication question and answers.

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: 18 Feb 2013

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