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Daily Living – Drug Pumps

Cancer Pain

After the initial healing period (up to 8 weeks after implant), the drug pump will become a routine part of your day.

Seeing the Pump

Your pump is placed near the surface of your skin for refill access. You may be able to see the pump under your skin when it is not covered with clothes, or if you are wearing fitted clothes. Depending on where the pump is implanted and its size, as well as your body type, it may not show at all under your clothes.

Caution with Activities

Some movements may stretch or put strain on the catheter or pump. Although the catheter is made of flexible and durable materials, it is still subject to wear. Excessive or repetitive bending, twisting, bouncing, or stretching can move or stretch the catheter. This damage may require surgery to repair. Your doctor may give you guidelines for activities to avoid.


Refilling and Adjusting the Pump

One of your most important responsibilities is to attend regularly scheduled refill appointments to make sure that your pump does not run out of pain medicine. Your pump needs to be refilled about every 5 to 24 weeks, depending on the type of medication and your dosage.

Refill appointments typically last 35 to 45 minutes. The pump is refilled by injection with a needle inserted through your skin. It’s usually relatively painless.

Missing a refill appointment could result in:

  • Underdose (too little medication) of intrathecal medication that could lead to withdrawal symptoms. Please consult your doctor for signs and symptoms of underdose and overdose for your medication.
  • Damage to the pump that could require pump replacement surgery

Your clinician will fill your pump and check the system to make sure you are receiving appropriate therapy. The programmability of the SynchroMed II system enables your doctor to adjust your therapy to different activities or times of day, ensuring that you receive the best pain control possible. Keep in mind that it can take several weeks or months to achieve your optimal dose and program.

Another important reason to attend your refill appointments is to monitor the performance and battery levels of the pump. Your pump has alarms that will sound when it requires attention.

Understanding Pump Alarms

Your pump is equipped with alarms that will sound when:

  • The pump needs to be refilled
  • The pump needs to be replaced
  • There is a problem with the pump

The alarm signals a critical or noncritical event in your infusion system. A critical alarm is a 3-second, dual-tone alarm. A critical alarm means that therapy has stopped or will stop soon. A noncritical alarm is a single-tone alarm. A noncritical alarm requires a doctor or nurse’s attention but does not mean that therapy will necessarily stop soon.

If an alarm sounds, call your clinician as soon as possible.

Here is what the critical and non-critical alarms sound like:

Please note that the volume of the alarm heard from your computer may be louder than the volume of the alarm heard from your implanted pump.

Realistic Expectations

Realistic expectations are key to satisfaction with any pain treatment. It is important to remember that your drug pump will not eliminate the source of your cancer pain or cure any underlying disease.

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.