People playing music

What Is a Drug Pump?

Cancer Pain

Since the implanted drug infusion system releases prescribed amounts of pain medication directly to the receptors near the spine, pain symptoms can be controlled using a small fraction of the oral dose. Most people also experience fewer or more tolerable side effects, such as nausea and constipation, due to negligible levels of pain medication in the blood stream.1-3

Unlike medications that circulate throughout your body in your bloodstream, targeted drug delivery releases medication directly to the fluid around your spinal cord.

SynchroMed II Drug Pump

SynchroMed II Drug Pump

About the Drug Delivery System

The system consists of a pump and catheter. The pump is a round device that stores and delivers pain medication. It is surgically placed in your abdomen. The catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the intrathecal space surrounding the spinal cord. The catheter is then connected to the drug pump.

Your doctor fills the pump with pain medication using a needle. The pump sends the medication through the catheter to the spinal area where pain receptors are located. You return to your doctor for more medicine when the pump needs to be refilled.

How It Works

The pump releases prescribed amounts of pain medication through the catheter directly to the fluid around the spinal cord, in an area called the intrathecal space.

Many people experience improvement in their pain symptoms1,3,4-6 and quality of life1,4,7-9 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 pain.

Advantages Over Other Therapies

Targeted drug delivery offers advantages over other therapies for chronic cancer pain:

  • A trial serves as a temporary evaluation period so you can see if targeted drug delivery relieves your pain before having the pump implanted
  • The system can be turned off or surgically removed if you decide to pursue a different treatment
  • Unlike oral medication, targeted drug delivery releases medication directly into the fluid around the spinal cord rather than traveling throughout your body in your bloodstream. This may lead to fewer or more tolerable side effects, such as nausea and constipation1-3
  • Targeted drug delivery may provide relief when other treatments (such as oral medication or injections) have not1,3,5

Our Products

Medtronic offers the SynchroMed® II drug delivery system for managing chronic cancer pain. The system includes:

  • Programmable drug pump – A battery-powered device that stores and dispenses medicine according to instructions programmed by your doctor
  • Catheter – A thin, flexible tube that carries the medication from the pump to the intrathecal space of the spine
  • Physician programmer – A computer at your doctor's office that lets your doctor tailor your therapy to best meet your needs
  • Personal therapy manager – A handheld patient control device called myPTM® that allows you to receive an extra dose of medication (within physician-set limits) in response to breakthrough pain

What Patients Say

Watch this video to learn more about targeted drug delivery and hear the stories of those who manage their cancer pain with this therapy.

Cancer Pain Drug Delivery Video



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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.