A patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump is a pain management device used in hospitals and occasionally in the home. This pain pump is separate from an IV pump, although the intravenous line that comes from the PCA pump is usually attached to the main IV line. This allows for the administration of IV painkillers directly into a patient's vein for quick and effective pain relief.
A patient-controlled analgesia pump can be set to deliver a continuous infusion of pain medicine, or it can be set to deliver pain medicine only when the patient pushes a button. In cases where there is a need for high doses of narcotics to alleviate pain, the device can be programmed to deliver a continuous infusion; the patient may also be able to push a button when needed for extra doses of pain medicine. The most common pain medications used in these pumps are morphine, Demerol®, or Dilaudid®.
A PCA pump is often used for pain control in postsurgical care. It may also be used for people with chronic health conditions such as cancer. The doctor determines the amount of pain medication the patient is to have. This pump has a timing device that can be programmed to prevent the patient giving himself too much pain medication. If the lockout time is set for ten minutes, for example, the patient will receive only one dose of pain medication every ten minutes no matter how many times he pushes the PCA button.
The PCA pump is considered safe to use because only a nurse or other medical professional can change the settings on the pump with a special key. The pumps have safeguards in place that will alert a nurse if a setting is not correct or if something is wrong with the pump. The settings on the PCA pump should always be checked by two qualified health care professionals before it is connected to the patient. A PCA pump is so simple and safe to use that it is often recommended for children when pain control is needed.
The biggest advantage to using a PCA pump for pain control is the consistent level of pain medication that stays in the body. Keeping an adequate level of pain medication in the body can help the patient avoid severe painful flare ups when the pain medication wears off. It also helps the patient be more relaxed, knowing he can medicate himself for pain instead of waiting on a nurse to administer the medicine. Using a patient-controlled analgesia device can help most patients recover quicker.