Implantable Medical Device to Deliver Pain Relief to Spinal Nerves
Intrathecal (IT) Pump Facts & Information
The chronic pain condition, CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome), is progressive and can affect any area of the body. Research suggests that the symptoms may result from an injured nerve or group of nerves.
Nerves, which originate from the spinal cord, run throughout the entire body sending pain signals to the brain. The purpose of an implantable IT pump is to apply medication (such as morphine or baclofen) directly to the spinal nerves that are causing pain associated with CRPS.
These devices also allow many to use medications to treat CRPS symptoms without the side effects of oral medications. Most patients will undergo a trial of about seven days before permanent implantation to ensure efficacy and pain relief.
How Do IT Pumps Help?
Another benefit to using IT pumps (aside from limited to no oral medication) is that they also significantly reduce the dosages needed for pain relief. Typically only 1/300th of the normal dose of medication is needed to relieve symptoms of CRPS.
The IT pump is programmed to release medication in controlled doses over a long period of time. The device can also be programmed to release different amounts of medication at different times, depending on your needs and levels of pain. Furthermore, the IT pump intuitively stores data about your prescription. This allows you and your physician to review and monitor your medication needs.
How is an IT Pump Implanted and is it Painful?
The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and usually requires two visits; the first to implant the external trial pump and the second to internally implant the permanent pump should the trial be a success.
The patient is positioned comfortably on their stomach on a table equipped with a special x-ray (fluoroscopic) unit. A local anesthetic numbs the skin and all the tissue down to the nerves. The physician then slides a needle through the anesthetized skin.
Using fluoroscopic guidance, a trial catheter is inserted into the fluid filled sac that surrounds the spinal cord. This catheter is then connected to an external programmable IT pump.
The external IT pump is used as an initial trial for seven days.
How Often Should this Procedure be Done?
If the trial is successful, a smaller internal pump is implanted and a battery is implanted under the skin in the lower back of about the buttocks. This battery will last for several years and may be rechargeable.
Please note that CRPS is a very painful, chronic condition and if left untreated could adversely affect quality of life for a sustained amount of time.
What are the Expected Results?
IT pumps have proven to be very successful in relieving pain caused by CRPS symptoms throughout the whole body.
It’s recommended that you take it easy the day of the procedure, but return to your usual activities in the following days. Although initially you might have some soreness at the implant site, the benefit on an IT pump will occur almost instantly as medication is programmed to release on a daily basis.