Intrathecal Pain Pumps

In this month’s first blog we covered the first of two methods to overcome chronic pain with spinal cord electrical stimulation. In June’s second blog, we’ll cover the second option, the intrathecal pain pump.

Dr. Trujillo uses both of these treatment options when helping our patients deal with chronic pain that isn’t responding to more conservative treatment options.

What is an intrathecal pain pump?

The fluid filled space around your spinal cord is called the intrathecal space. Cerebrospinal fluid flows through this space, bathing and protecting your spinal cord. When patients take oral pain medication it isn’t always very efficient in reaching the intrathecal space, so chronic pain endures.

An intrathecal pain pump is far more efficient, as it delivers medication directly into the cerebrospinal fluid in the intrathecal space. This method is so much more efficient that dosages of medication delivered through an intrathecal pain pump are only about 1/300th the amount of what would be taken orally to achieve the same relief.

The intrathecal pain pump system consists of a pump/reservoir that is implanted between the muscle and skin of your abdomen and a catheter that carries the pain medication from the pump to the intrathecal space. There the medication can directly affect the spinal cord and nerve roots.

How is an intrathecal pump placed?

The patient lies on his or her stomach, and Dr. Trujillo applies local anesthetic. Then he inserts a catheter through a needle or a small incision into the back. The catheter is advanced into the intrathecal space. The catheter is connected to a temporary pump. This pump provides a demo, of sorts, for a test run to see if the pain pump will help relieve the patient’s pain. If pain does decrease, the next step could be to install a permanent system.

For the second procedure, the patient is placed under general anesthesia. The temporary catheter is removed, and through a needle or incision a permanent catheter is implanted into the body. It runs into the intrathecal space, just as the temporary catheter did. Next, Dr. Trujillo implants the pump, usually under the skin of the abdomen, and he attaches the catheter end to the pump.

The amount of medication dispensed by the pump is programmed by an external handheld unit. When the pump is running low on medication, it is refilled from an external feed. The battery in the pump will last from 3-5 years. When it runs out a new pump is placed where the old pump was.

Intrathecal pain pumps can be a really effective option for treating chronic pain in patients where surgery isn’t an option. If you have questions about chronic pain or either of this month’s blog topics, spinal cord stimulation and an intrathecal pain pump, call us at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic, (855) 768-4968.

Posted in: Blog, Intrathecal Pump Implant

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