Intrathecal Pump Implantation

What Is An Intrathecal Pain Pump?

An intrathecal drug delivery system (pain pump) can be a great safe option for many patients experiencing chronic pain or cancer pain. Medication is delivered directly into the spinal fluid resulting in much less medication used and less side effects to treat pain. A reservoir filled with medication is implanted to provide at least a months worth of medication.

For chronic pain, a trial is first performed to determine if a pump is the right therapy for you. A trial is performed in our office using fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance then your pain levels will be assessed prior to you leaving as well as while you are at home. If it is determined that you have had a successful trial then the permanent pump will be placed under general anesthesia in an ambulatory surgery center or hospital.

For cancer pain, we are able to go straight to implanting the pump to ensure your pain is treated as fast as possible. The pump will be placed under general anesthesia in an ambulatory surgery center or hospital.

To implant the device, our Pain Management Providers will make a small incision in the back to place the catheter in the affected area of the spine. Then an extension catheter is passed under the skin from the spine around the torso to the abdomen where the actual pump is implanted. A trial intrathecal injection or a temporary intrathecal pump is usually performed to determine whether the medication is effective and a permanent pump is appropriate. The intrathecal pump itself consists of a metal pump that stores and delivers the medication, and a catheter that delivers the medication to the space around the spinal cord. The pump can be programmed to slowly release the medication over a period of time, or to deliver the medication at different times of the day.  

The implanted pump and catheter are surgically placed under the skin. 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.

Once the infusion system is implanted, device complications may occur which may require surgery to resolve. Drug overdose or underdose can result because of these complications and 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 could leak, tear, kink, or become disconnected. The pump could stop because the battery has run out or because of failure of another part of the infusion system. Additionally, inflammatory masses have been reported at the tip of the catheter which may lead to complications, including paralysis.

Drug delivery therapy offers a number of potential benefits, including:

  • Effective pain relief
  • Reduced or eliminated use of pain medication
  • Reduced side effects compared with oral medication
  • Improved ability to function and participate in everyday activities
  • High patient satisfaction

In addition, this treatment:

  • Has been proven to be safe and effective when used as directed
  • Does not involve permanent changes to the spinal cord or nerves
  • Can be customized by varying the dosage to accommodate your needs at different times of the day/night or week
  • Lets you try the therapy for a short period of time before committing to long-term therapy
  • Is reversible—the therapy can be turned off, or if desired, it can be surgically removed

Dottie’s Story

Bill’s Story

Cheryl’s Story

[/vc_column_text][/vc_tta_section][vc_tta_section title=”Additional Resources” tab_id=”1589222080204-bfa5cb39-778f”][vc_column_text]