What is an Intrathecal Pump?
An intrathecal pump is an advanced method of managing chronic back pain. Also known as a targeted drug delivery, an intrathecal pump can deliver medication directly into the spinal cord. For some patients, this may be a safer alternative than oral medication.
Intrathecal pumps bypass the digestive system completely, which makes them uniquely effective for managing chronic pain. Patients can experience the same relief with much smaller doses of medication, and avoid many of the negative side effects of pain pills.
An intrathecal pump won’t treat your underlying condition, but it can provide some respite from chronic pain and improve your quality of life.
Intrathecal pumps can alleviate both pain and muscle spasms associated with:
- Failed back surgery
- Cerebral palsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic pancreatitis
How Do Intrathecal Pumps Work?
The pump itself looks a little like a pocket watch. It is a round metal device connected to a tube (catheter) and implanted beneath the skin in the abdomen. The catheter leads to the spine, and the tip is inserted directly into the spinal column.
The pump is pre-programmed to release medication throughout the day, based on a schedule set by your doctor.
A beeping noise will let you know when it’s time to refill the pump. Your doctor or nurse can do this by injecting a needle through the skin and into the pump’s reservoir. If you’re still experiencing some discomfort, your doctor can adjust the dosage.
How Is the Pump Inserted?
The surgical insertion is performed under general anesthesia. Your doctor will make two incisions: one in the side of your abdomen to place the pump, and another in your back to place the catheter.
The whole process takes about 3-4 hours, and most patients can go home the same day.
After the procedure, it’s normal to experience some discomfort while your body recovers. You may take pain medication during this time, but even if you’re feeling better, be mindful not to overexert yourself. Certain activities, like climbing stairs, lifting heavy items, or rigorous exercise, will be off-limits for 2-3 weeks after surgery.
Is an Intrathecal Pump Right for Me?
An intrathecal pump is a safe, effective method for managing chronic pain, but it may not be right for everyone. There are a few factors that you and your doctor will need to consider before recommending the device, such as:
- What other conventional treatments you tried, and were they successful?
- What are the risks of undergoing surgery?
- Do you have an existing dependence on pain medication?
- Do you have any allergies that will interfere with the treatment?
Only a certified specialist can determine if an intrathecal pump is right for you. If you’re a good candidate, you’ll receive a trial device to see what impact the treatment may have on your pain. If it relieves at least 50% of the pain, then a permanent device will be implanted.
To learn more about the benefits of an intrathecal pump, schedule a consultation with the specialists at Nuvo Spine today.
Dr. Vahedifar's pain management strategies integrate cutting-edge medical technology with targeted interventions to minimize pain and treat pain’s underlying causes.
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