Overview of Pain Pumps (Intrathecal Drug Delivery)

Intrathecal drug delivery (IDD), or pain pumps, involves the injection of pain medications into your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The CSF surrounds your spinal cord, which is rich in pain receptors. By delivering medication to these receptors directly, a small amount of pain medication is able to have a large effect, in this way not only is pain relief superior, but the side-effects of high oral doses of pain medications are avoided.

Intrathecal drug delivery is an advanced option for use when other measures are not providing adequate relief of your pain. We start with a trial period where a catheter is placed into the spinal fluid through a small needle in an outpatient clinic setting under x-ray guidance.

Benefits of using a Pain Pump

Some benefits of treating chronic pain with a pain pump include:

  • Pain relief for patients whose pain has not been controlled with more conservative therapies
  • Improved quality of life
  • Reduced side effects such as nausea, vomiting, sedation, and constipation
  • Decreased need for oral pain medications
  • Increased ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Reversible

Questions about Pain Pump for Drug Delivery

How long does an Intrathecal Pump Trial placement take?

Trial placement is similar to other injections and usually takes no more than 30 minutes.

Do I have to stop taking my pain medications for this procedure?

In general, patients are encouraged to reduce the amount of pain medications by at least 50% leading up to the day of the trial. You should talk to your physician and make a plan of action on how to decrease the dosages of your short acting and long acting pain medications before the trial.

What happens during my trial?

During the trial an external pump will be hooked to the spinal catheter to deliver small amounts of pain medication into your spinal fluid.

How long will my trial period last?

Pump trials usually last 2 to 3 days, however they can be stopped early if you quickly notice improved pain relief.

My trial went well, what is the next step?

If your trial was a success your physician will begin the process of scheduling you for outpatient surgery to have a system implanted.

Pain Pumps for Drug Delivery

Back pain icon for pain management