What Is Intrathecal Pump Therapy?

What Is Intrathecal Pump Therapy?

Cancer is a disease that affects many people around the world. It can be a daunting and scary process to learn about a cancer diagnosis. While cancer on its own is a difficult disease to accept, cancer pain only adds to the difficulty. Fortunately, there is help for those suffering from cancer pain, and it comes in the form of an intrathecal pump. While not all forms of cancer are curable, there is hope for treating pain associated with cancer and allowing the patient to be more comfortable.

An intrathecal pump can reduce pain by delivering medication directly to the area surrounding the spinal cord. This is beneficial to the patient because it requires significantly less medication to be effective than other forms of medication delivery. Patients who are candidates are those who are suffering greatly from cancer pain and have not found relief from other types of medication, or who have extreme adverse side effects to other pain medications.

Intrathecal pumps are implanted just beneath the skin during a surgical procedure. This typically occurs in the abdominal area of the patient, and a catheter is positioned to where the medication is needed. The entire process typically takes around 1.5 to 2 hours to complete, and recovery time is minimal. Patients who have undergone intrathecal pump therapy report fewer side effects and better pain relief than traditional forms of pain medication.

While intrathecal pumps can work wonders for patients suffering from cancer pain, they do require some effort in the upkeep department. The medication in an intrathecal pump will need to be refilled every month to month and a half. In order to do this, the patient must make a doctor’s appointment in order to have the medication refilled. In addition, the amount of medication a patient receives may need to be changed depending on his or her pain level. Only a doctor can adjust the amount of medication received through the pump, and a doctor’s appointment must be made in order to make these changes. In total, the pump will last about 4-7 years but will need to be replaced if it stops working after this amount of time. Intrathecal pumps may set off metal detectors and will require a special ID card if the patient is someone who travels often.

All in all, intrathecal pump therapy is an excellent alternative treatment for those cancer patients who experience pain that is not relieved by normal medication measures, or who have severe side effects to normal medication. While the pump can provide relief from pain and, thus, a better quality of life, it does come with some maintenance. Ensuring open communication with your prescribing physician is key to having the best experience possible with the intrathecal pump. The patient must be sure to plan refill appoints well in advance to ensure there is not a lapse in medication delivery. Cancer is a complicated disease to deal with mentally and emotionally, and it can be made even more difficult when faced with extreme pain. Fortunately, intrathecal pump therapy exists to make cancer pain more tolerable and increase a person’s quality of life.

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