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Daily Living – Drug Pumps

Chronic Pain

After the initial healing period (6 to 8 weeks), the drug pump will become a routine part of your day. In fact, clinical studies show that many people who did not get chronic pain relief from oral medications were able to improve their daily activities with a drug pump. (Results may vary.)1-5

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 your size and shape, where the pump is implanted, and the size of your pump, the pump may not show at all.

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Doctor Visits

You will need to return to your designated hospital periodically for check-ups and to have your pump refilled. The medication in your pump needs to be refilled every 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on your dosage and the size of your pump. The frequency of refills depends on the drug concentration and the amount of pain medication you receive every day.

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Refilling and Adjusting the Pump

The doctor fills the pump with pain medication using a needle. You and your doctor must work together to find the dose of medication that is most comfortable for you. Dosing can be customised to accommodate your needs at different times of the day/night or week.

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Understanding Pump Alarms

Your pump is equipped with alarms that will sound when:

  • The pup 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 because it may mean therapy will stop at some point in the future.

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

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.

After your implant, ask your doctor to temporarily program your pump to sound the alarm in his or her office so you will recognize the sound if an alarm goes off in the future.

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 Caution With Activities

Some movements may stretch or put strain on the catheter or on the stitches that hold your pump in place. Your doctor may give you guidelines for activities to avoid.

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 or possibly replace the catheter.

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Realistic Expectations

Realistic expectations are key to satisfaction with any pain treatment. It is important to remember that your pump will not eliminate the source of your pain or cure any underlying disease, but may help you to better manage your pain.

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Removing the Pump

If you no longer need the pump or change your mind about the pain treatment, your doctor can turn it off or surgically remove the system.

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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.

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.