An implanted drug infusion system releases prescribed amounts of pain medication directly to the receptors near the spine, allowing pain symptoms to be controlled using a small fraction of the oral dose. Most people also experience fewer or more tolerable side effects, such as nausea and constipation, due to negligible levels of pain medication in the blood stream.
Unlike medications that circulate throughout your body in your bloodstream, targeted drug delivery releases medication directly to the fluid around your spinal cord.
About the Drug Delivery System
The system consists of a pump and catheter. The pump is a round device that stores and delivers pain medication. It is surgically placed in your abdomen or above your buttocks. The catheter (a thin, flexible tube) is inserted into the intrathecal space surrounding the spinal cord. The catheter is then connected to the drug pump.
Your doctor fills the pump with pain medication using a needle. The pump sends the medication through the catheter to the spinal area where pain receptors are located. You return to your doctor for more medicine when the pump needs to be refilled.
How it Works
The pump releases prescribed amounts of pain medication through the catheter directly to the fluid around the spinal cord, in an area called the intrathecal space.
Many people experience improvement in their pain symptoms and quality of life after receiving the targeted drug delivery. However, realistic expectations are essential to satisfaction with any pain treatment. Targeted drug delivery cannot eliminate the source of your pain or cure any underlying disease, but it may help you to better manage your pain.
Advantages Over Other Therapies
Targeted drug delivery offers advantages over other therapies for chronic cancer pain:
- A screening test serves as a temporary evaluation period so you can see if targeted drug delivery relieves your pain before having the pump implanted
- The system can be turned off or surgically removed if you decide to pursue a different treatment
- Unlike oral medication, targeted drug delivery releases medication directly into the fluid around the spinal cord rather than traveling throughout your body in your bloodstream. This may lead to fewer or more tolerable side effects, such as nausea and constipation
- Targeted drug delivery may provide relief when other treatments (such as oral medication or injections) have not
Can You See the Pump
Your pump is placed near the surface of your skin for refill access. You may be able to see the pump under your skin when it is not covered with clothes, or if you are wearing fitted clothes. Depending on where the pump is implanted and its size, as well as your body type, it may not show at all under your clothes.
Caution With Activities
Some movements may stretch or put strain on the catheter or pump. Although the catheter is made of flexible and durable materials, it is still subject to wear. Excessive or repetitive bending, twisting, bouncing, or stretching can move or stretch the catheter. This damage may require surgery to repair. Your doctor may give you guidelines for activities to avoid.
Refilling and Adjusting the Pump
One of your most important responsibilities is to attend regularly scheduled refill appointments to make sure that your pump does not run out of pain medicine. Your pump needs to be refilled about every 5 to 24 weeks, depending on the type of medication and your dosage.
Refill appointments typically last 35 to 45 minutes. The pump is refilled by injection with a needle inserted through your skin. It’s usually relatively painless.
Missing a refill appointment could result in:
- Underdose (too little medication) of intrathecal medication that could lead to withdrawal symptoms. Please consult your doctor for signs and symptoms of underdose and overdose for your medication.
- Damage to the pump that could require pump replacement surgery
A clinician at Clearway will fill your pump and check the system to make sure you are receiving appropriate therapy. The clinician is able to adjust your therapy to different activities or times of day, ensuring that you receive the best pain control possible. Keep in mind that it can take several weeks or months to achieve your optimal dose and program.
Another important reason to attend your refill appointments is to monitor the performance and battery levels of the pump. Your pump has alarms that will sound when it requires attention.
Realistic expectations are key to satisfaction with any pain treatment. It is important to remember that your drug pump will not eliminate the source of your cancer pain or cure any underlying disease.
Removing the Pump
If you no longer need the pump or change your mind about the pain treatment, your doctor can turn it off or remove the system.
At Clearway Pain Solutions we believe in Relieving Pain, Restoring Function, and Renewing Hope. To better learn about your options for pain management call our office today at 850-484-4080 to schedule your appointment.