Pain medicine works better when the pain first starts, before it gets too bad. A patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pump lets you give yourself intravenous (IV) pain medicine when you need it. This gives you more control of your pain relief.
The PCA pump contains your pain medicine. Usually that medicine is morphine, but other painkilling drugs are sometimes used. The pump is connected through a tube to a vein in your body. You press a button when you feel pain and the pump gives you a dose of medicine set by your doctor. You cannot give yourself too much medicine, because the pump will be set to prevent that.
PCA pumps are most often used in the hospital after surgery. The pump allows you to give yourself pain medicine after you wake up and as you recover from your operation. The pumps also are used by people who have very bad cancer pain. These pumps can often be used at home.
Some pumps are set to give you a small, constant flow of medicine. When you feel pain or are uncomfortable, you can press the button and receive an extra bit of medicine. Other pumps give you a set dose of your medicine only when you push the button.
Sometimes a family member or a friend may offer to press the button on the PCA pump for you. But you are the only person who should press the button. Only you know when you need more pain medicine in your body. If you're too sleepy to press the button, you don't need more medicine.
PCA pumps not only control pain but also have other benefits. People feel less anxious and depressed. They are not as sleepy, because they use less medicine. Often they are able to move around more. And they feel a greater sense of control over their own pain management.
A PCA pump works well to control pain, because you can give yourself medicine before the pain gets too bad. Being in control of your pain relief also helps you relax and deal with the pain better.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Jimmy Ruiz, MD - Medical Oncology, Hematology