When you’re struggling with chronic pain, it can be easy to get discouraged. But when more conservative treatments simply aren’t working, you still have options.
If you’re suffering from consistent back, neck, or leg pain, but you haven’t found an effective solution, it may be time to consider an intrathecal pump implant. Read on to learn what a pump implant is, what to expect from the procedure, and what makes an ideal candidate.
What is an intrathecal pump implant?
An intrathecal pump implant delivers small amounts of medication to a targeted space around the spinal cord. Pinpointing and treating this area as the source of pain can help patients experience substantial relief.
Intrathecal pump implants are designed to decrease your need for oral pain medications. They’re especially effective for treating conditions such as:
- Pain from failed back surgery
- Cancer pain
- Pain and discomfort resulting from brain and nerve injury
- Abdominal pain from chronic pancreatitis
How does an intrathecal pump implant work?
The area around your spine containing cerebrospinal fluid is called the intrathecal space. An intrathecal pump is a round device, similar to a metal hockey puck. A doctor places the pump under the skin of the abdomen, with a small tube running to the intrathecal space to carry and deliver medication.
Because the patient receives medicine from the reservoir within the pump rather than taking it orally, he or she needs much less to experience relief. It can even be set up to release different amounts of medication at varying times of day, depending on your routine. Those with a pump will simply need to make regular appointments to have their medication reservoir refilled.
This is an outpatient procedure beginning with a trial to ensure the pump is the right option for you. Once it proves to be effective in treating pain, the physician will surgically insert a permanent pump. Permanent intrathecal pump implants are reversible, but they require surgery for removal.
Does an intrathecal pump implant hurt?
This is a common question for many patients. Because the placement of an intrathecal pump implant is surgical, you may experience some discomfort during the healing process.
Beyond this, patients usually experience little to no discomfort as a result of the pump. In fact, it should significantly decrease feelings of chronic pain in most people. If you continue to experience pain after the surgery, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
Are there risks or side effects?
An intrathecal pump implant has minimal risks, including catheter movement, fluid buildup, or problems with pump functionality. These are all issues that you can resolve by visiting your doctor. Additionally, the medication itself may have side effects, but your pain specialist will probably detect these during the trial period.
As with any procedure, there are small risks of infection or bleeding, but your physician will walk you through ways to prevent these. Most patients have few (or no) side effects and simply experience the relief they’ve been wanting.
Who is a candidate for an intrathecal pump implant?
If you’re experiencing chronic pain in your back, neck, or legs, you may be a candidate for an intrathecal pump implant.
Most patients who benefit from having a pump have similar qualities:
- More conservative treatments have been ineffective in treating your pain.
- You rely on prescription pain medication.
- Additional surgery is not possible or practical.
- The trial pump decreased your pain.
- You are free of other psychological or physical conditions that could decrease pump effectiveness.
Continuing to suffer from chronic pain despite trying a variety of treatments can be discouraging, but there is hope. An intrathecal pump implant can provide relief with minimal risks and side effects. If you think you may be a candidate for an implant, an expert can help you decide which steps you should take to find lasting relief.
Lafayette Pain Care is a pain clinic in Indiana. We’re dedicated to helping our patients find lasting relief from chronic and acute pain so they can return to the activities they love. For more information, please visit our website and like us on Facebook.