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Benefits and Risks – Drug Pumps

Cancer Pain

Studies show that drug pumps (intrathecal drug delivery systems) may relieve cancer pain and increase comfort for people with severe pain.1-4 Talk with your doctor about the benefits, risks, and responsibilities involved with using a drug pump for cancer pain management.


Many people experience improvements in their pain symptoms and quality of life after receiving Medtronic drug therapy. Benefits may include:

  • Effective pain control1-5
  • Less oral pain medications4,6
  • Fewer or more tolerable side effects1,4,7
  • Improved ability to function and participate in activities of daily living1,4,8-10

In addition, this treatment:

  • Allows the dosage to be adjusted for your comfort
  • Is reversible -- your doctor can turn off the therapy or surgically remove the system


The drug pump is surgically placed in the abdomen and connected to the catheter, which is placed in the spinal column. 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 surgery.

Once the infusion system is implanted, device complications may occur which require surgery to resolve. Drug overdose or underdose can result because of these complications, which 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 may leak, tear, kink, or become disconnected. The pump may stop because the battery has run out or because another part of the infusion system has failed. 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.



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;20:4040-4049.


Deer T, Chapple I, Classen A, et al. Intrathecal drug delivery for treatment of chronic low back pain: report from the National Outcomes Registry for Low Back Pain. Pain Med. 2004;5:6–13.


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.


Hamza M, Doleys D, Wells M, et al. Prospective study of 3-year follow-up of lowdose intrathecal opioids in the management of chronic nonmalignant pain. Pain Med. 2012;13:1304-1313.


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.


Atli A, Theodore BR, Turk DC, Loeser JD. Intrathecal opioid therapy for chronic nonmalignant pain: a retrospective cohort study with 3-year follow-up. Pain Med. 2010;11:1010-1016.


Ruan X. Drug-related side effects of long-term intrathecal morphine therapy. Pain Physician. 2007;10:357-366.


Winkelmüller M, Winkelmüller W. Long-term effects of continuous intrathecal opioid treatment in chronic pain of nonmalignant etiology. J Neurosurg. 1996;85:458-67.


Roberts LJ, Finch PM, Goucke CR, Price LM. Outcome of intrathecal opioids in chronic non-cancer pain. Eur J Pain. 2001;5: 353-361.


Thimineur MA, Kravitz E, Vodapally MS. Intrathecal opioid treatment for chronic non-malignant pain: a 3-year prospective study. Pain. 2004;109:242-249.

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.