Intrathecal drug delivery (pain pump)

Intrathecal drug delivery uses a surgically implanted pain pump to treat chronic intractable pain.

The pump is usually placed in the low back or abdominal wall, and a thin piece of tubing known as a catheter continuously delivers medication from the pump to the intrathecal space (the areas surrounding the spinal cord).

An intrathecal pump is used to treat pain caused by cancer, neuropathic pain, failed back surgery syndrome, intractable low back pain, complex regional pain syndrome, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, somatic and visceral pain.

Common medications used to treat pain via intrathecal delivery include bupivacaine, morphine and ziconotide. Intrathecal drug delivery can also deliver a medication called baclofen, which treats spasticity.

Patients being considered for intrathecal drug delivery often undergo a trial where a single dose of the medication in question is injected into the intrathecal space to determine if the pain is adequately relieved. If the patient’s pain is adequately and appropriately relieved, the patient can then take the next step and have the pump and catheter surgically implanted.

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