People painting

Questions and Answers – Drug Pumps

Chronic Pain

What is a drug pump?

A drug pump (targeted drug delivery system) is designed to reduce chronic pain by delivering pain medication to the intrathecal space, where fluid flows around the spinal cord. Since targeted drug delivery releases medication directly at the source of the pain, effective pain relief may be achieved at lower doses and with fewer or more tolerable side effects compared to oral medications, which go through your circulatory system.

Back to top

How does a drug pump work?

The implanted pump and catheter release prescribed amounts of pain in close proximity to the spinal cord, to affect pain signals before they reach the brain. The programmability of the pump enables your doctor to customize the therapy to best meet your needs throughout the day. You return to your doctor’s office for more medication when the pump needs to be refilled.

Back to top

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 trial so that you can experience the therapy to see if you are a good candidate.

Back to top

Is the pump new?

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

Back to top

Will targeted drug delivery completely eliminate my pain?

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

Back to top

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.

Back to top

What is the surgery like?

The surgery to implant the system takes approximately 1 to 3 hours and usually takes place in a hospital or surgery center.

Back to top

What do I need to know if morphine is prescribed for my pain pump?

Some doctors choose to use morphine in the drug pump. There are risks associated with the use of morphine. For more details, see Morphine Patient Education.

Back to top

What if I need an MRI?

The Medtronic programmable, targeted drug delivery system allows full-body MRI scans under specific conditions. Your drug pump does not need to be emptied prior to MRI exposure. It is important to know that the magnetic field of the MRI scanner will temporarily stop your pump motor and stop drug infusion until the MRI exposure is complete. Your pump should then resume its normal operation. Your doctor will need to make sure your normal infusion has resumed after the MRI procedure.

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.