An intrathecal pump is a device that is used to deliver medications to the area surrounding the spinal cord. The device is implanted underneath the abdominal skin and uses a catheter to deliver medications to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves. Because the drugs are delivered directly to the target area, it avoids the fast pass metabolism of oral medications therefore smaller doses are required.
The device is programmed to remember your dosage and the doctor will be reviewing you to check whether you need a refill. Bart Gartz, MD is a pain specialist who can cure chronic pain using an intrathecal pump to block pain signals from reaching your brain. An intrathecal pump can be used for people with chronic pain that does not respond to any other treatment.
How is an Intrathecal Pump Inserted?
The doctor will have prepared you for the surgery in advance and given you instructions like stopping anti-clotting medications a few days before the surgery to reduce the risk of bleeding and fasting for 6 days before the surgery to avoid aspiration when you are under general anesthesia. The doctor also explains the procedure, the benefits, and possible risks so that you can sign an informed consent.
On the day of the surgery, the anesthetist puts you under general anesthesia. The doctor then makes a tiny incision in your back and inserts the catheter in the intrathecal space and holds it in place with sutures. An extension catheter is passed to the abdomen to the site where the pump will be implanted.
The doctor then places the pump beneath your abdominal skin through a lateral incision and connects it to the extension catheter. The pump is then secured with sutures and the back and abdominal incisions are closed and dressed. After the anesthesia effects wear off, you will be given painkillers for pain from the incisions and then discharged.
What Should You Expect After the Surgery?
You might experience some pain at the incision site that will go away with painkillers. You may also get spinal headaches which are caused by leakage of spinal fluid and will go away by lying flat and taking caffeinated beverages like coffee. Avoid lifting heavy weights and doing strenuous work or having sex for 2 weeks after the surgery because it can displace the catheter before it has healed.
Stay well hydrated to avoid constipation which can strain your back and avoid drinking alcohol and smoking because smoking delays healing by causing vasoconstriction of blood vessels. Avoid sitting for long. You can shower the next day but avoid wetting the incision or applying lotions. Watch out for signs of infection in the incision site like excess pain, swelling, redness, pus, or a foul smell.
Contact your doctor if you notice any sign of infection, have severe back pain, or if you experience a severe headache that does not go away. Leg weakness or stool and urine incontinence is an emergency because it shows that your spine may be injured. You should also ensure that you go for refills as instructed by the doctor.
Who Qualifies to Get an Intrathecal Pump?
A person whose pain does not go away with all other pain treatment methods. A good candidate is a healthy person with no underlying medical conditions and no drug allergies. You qualify to get the pump if you responded well to the trial and do not have mental problems. You also qualify if you will not benefit from surgery and have been on pain meds for a long time. If you meet these criteria, the intrathecal pump can cure the pain of cancer, spine injury, multiple sclerosis, and brain injury.
An intrathecal pump is a device that is used to deliver medications to the spinal cord in patients with chronic pain and is suitable for healthy people whose pain can’t be controlled with other drugs and have no disease or allergies that increase the risks after surgery.