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Intrathecal “Pain” Pump
If you’ve been researching potential solutions to chronic pain, you may have run across the term “intrathecal pump,” also known as a pain pump. Recently, the intrathecal pump’s popularity has risen among those in the medical field, but the general public still doesn’t know much about it. And for those dealing with chronic pain, it can be overwhelming to be faced with so much new information.
In hopes of lightening the load, this guide will discuss where an intrathecal pump is placed and how an intrathecal pain pump works, so you have all the information you need before making a decision. Read on to learn what exactly an intrathecal pump is, what benefits it offers and whether a pain pump could be right for you.
What Is an Intrathecal Pain Pump?
An intrathecal pain pump is a thin, flexible tube surgically inserted into an area around the spinal cord to deliver medicine that relieves certain types of chronic or cancer pain. The pump itself is a small, round metal device connected to the tube with a reservoir inside of it to hold the medication. The pain pump is programmed to incrementally release medication and gets surgically implanted under the abdomen’s skin.
The intrathecal pump gets its name from the space it’s inserted into between the spinal cord and the tissue covering the cord, which is known as the intrathecal space. The intrathecal space holds a liquid called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which is the receiver of the medicine that flows through the pain pump.
By administering medicine directly to the CSF, an intrathecal pump may help stop nerves along the spine from sending pain signals to the brain. This approach makes an intrathecal pain pump more effective than oral medication and only a fraction of the typical oral dosage necessary.
An intrathecal pump may help relieve the pain of patients who suffer long-term pain from these causes:
- Cancer pain: Constant pain from tumors, which compress the spinal nerves, or from radiation therapy scarring.
- Failed back surgery syndrome: Persistent leg pain despite one or more surgical procedures.
- Chronic pancreatitis: Long-term abdominal pain due to the pancreatic duct being blocked or chronically inflamed.
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy: A nervous system disease that causes a constant burning pain.
- Causalgia: Severe pain from a peripheral nerve injury.
- Arachnoiditis: Scarring or inflammation of the meninges (protective layers) of the spinal nerves that leads to chronic pain.
A pain pump may also help decrease spasticity caused by these conditions:
- Stroke: Damage suffered by the brain because of a lack of oxygen caused by an interruption to the blood supply.
- Cerebral palsy: A nervous disorder that affects the ability to control body movements.
- Multiple sclerosis: A brain and spinal cord disorder resulting from damage to the outer layer of nerve cells (myelin).
Why Get an Intrathecal Pump?
Although undergoing the operation to have an intrathecal pump implanted is an intensive process, it comes with many benefits.
Here are the top five advantages of the treatment:
- Customizable: Intrathecal pumps can be programmed for a patient’s specific needs and may be changed at any time, depending on the patient’s level of pain.
- Fewer side effects: Programming pain pumps for a patient’s individualized needs can cut down on the adverse effects that often come with taking oral pain medication.
- Ditch pain medication: With an intrathecal pump, most patients can eliminate or at least greatly reduce the use of oral pain medication.
- Trial period: Patients go through a trial test before receiving an intrathecal pump, so they can have confidence in their decision.
- Impermanence: An intrathecal pump is in no way permanent and may be turned off or surgically removed at any time.
How Long Does an Intrathecal Pump Last?
Generally, a pump needs to be refilled every one to three months. At refill appointments, a patient can discuss with their doctor whether the dosage needs to be adjusted. The batteries within the pump last longer, about three to five years depending on usage, but require an entirely new pump because the batteries can’t be replaced however there is no need to replace the catheter.
Over the course of regular refills, a patient should be able to figure out the dosage right for them and experience a reduction in chronic pain. A patient’s results with a pain pump will vary, depending on the condition being treated and its severity, but spasticity control and the ease of daily activities should noticeably improve.
Who Is a Good Candidate for an Intrathecal Pump?
An intrathecal pump is a viable treatment plan for anyone who has tried conservative therapies, yet still experiences chronic pain. A good pain pump candidate has no other surgical options, no active or untreated drug addiction, no medical contraindications and no psychological conditions that implantable therapy could exacerbate. Finally, a good candidate for a pain pump has successfully gone through a drug trial for the pump.
Relieve Your Pain at Central New Jersey’s Spine INA
If you’re wondering whether an intrathecal pump is right for you, contact Spine INA. We offer a unique combination of professional and personable service, so you can have an honest conversation about all your options with experts who will work to find the best treatment plan for you. Our physicians continually travel the world to further their education and training, so they can provide their patients with the most up-to-date medical responses.
At Spine INA, it’s always our goal to relieve your pain and revive your life. To figure out the best treatment option for you, call (609) 337-6496 today.
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