Intrathecal Pain Pump: January 26, 2011

Pain relief can come in a variety of forms: from injections to medications to physical therapy. But for those who have tried all three without success, there’s another method that might work. “A lot of people call it a morphine pump. It’s a pain pump,” says Dr. Adam Shuster, a pain management specialist on the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.

He explains how this little pump can bring big results. “Let’s say these people who are taking opium medications, high dose opiums more than 200 mg or morphine a day. If a person is on this amount of medication and its helping them but they can’t tolerate the side effects or they need more medication, and they can’t tolerate side effects. What you can do is insert a little catheter that goes into the spinal fluid essentially and we can deliver the medication straight into the spinal fluid so you need much, much less medication to get the same effect and it cuts down on side effects and it can be useful because you can mix a variety of medications.”

The pump is about the size of a hockey puck with space inside to hold medication. The pump is then programmed to release the medications at different times throughout the day. “It’s a fully reversible technology which is nice too because most surgeries you really can’t take away. This one, you can put it in and take it out if it doesn’t work or there’s a problem with it,” explains Dr. Shuster.

Designed to help lessen chronic pain, these pumps are often prescribed when all other therapies and surgeries have failed.