Intrathecal Opioid Pumps: Few Pros, Many Cons

Intrathecal Opioid Pumps: Few Pros, Many Cons – Pain Pumps – Chronic Pain

Only the very worst cases of extremely severe pain are considered. Prior to declaring pump candidacy, the individual considering this treatment option must have been through an entire gamete of oral opioid medication options and have failed miserably. Usually this individual has pain from a malignancy, but occasionally people with non-malignant pain are considered.

each candidate will face a life-long laundry list of potential mechanical complications.The catheter can kink, obstruct, dislodge, and disconnect. The pump can fail from battery depletion, pump inversion, pump erosion or technical difficulties.

This is the first article I’ve seen that points out the disadvantages and problems with these “pain pumps”.  Looking through the promotional material makes it seem utterly simple and mostly without complications.  Once again, the truth is completely different from the advertisements. 

These mechanical failures are not something that any old hospital doctor can take care of as if he/she is the local one-stop pump mechanic. No, these failures are potentially life-threatening problems causing acute opioid withdrawal symptoms that require specialty care not found at a majority of health care centers.

These pumps are manufactured by one company alone. Without any competition in this market, there has been no motivation to improve this technology. The unreliability of these pumps is notorious

pump delivering pain medications into the spinal canal have a 1 in 20 chance of death from overdose. The 4 percent chance of death is higher than what anyone who has routine anesthesia for surgery will face.

every four to five years the pump will need to be surgically replaced

there are not many benefits to be gained from the intrathecal opioid pump.

Those who have extreme pain and opt for the pump are usually still miserable because the pain is still severe. The pain score might reduce slightly, but remains very high. Is that enough to for someone to have a reasonable quality of life for years to come? Maybe, maybe not.

The only people who really can benefit the most are individuals with malignant pain. What little life is left will be prolonged because the pain will be kept manageable enough for the person to remain functional and get his/her affairs in order. The shortened life expectancy from the malignancy negates any potential for pump failures and needs for replacements in the future. In other words, a person with cancer will not be around long enough for a majority of pump problems to become a problem.

Yes, the reality about intrathecal opioid pumps is bleak because only in rare cases do the benefits outweigh the risks


6 thoughts on “Intrathecal Opioid Pumps: Few Pros, Many Cons

  1. pat

    I have used opiates successfully for years. My Dr. now says he won’t give them to me. I was referred to a Dr. that wants to give me a pain pump. Let me get this correct? Invasive surgery to taking a few pills a day? How stupid is this?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lindsay Butler

      Hi Pat. I am also a chronic pain person who sadly the only option is to manage my pain. Surgical options to actually address some of the pain is a huge risk for death for me or being paralyzed. I have been taking different opiates throughout the years but as you know the media and CDC and the US government are lumping chronic pain patients and heroin users all in one category. It is a sad time for us. I swear our government would rather see the chronic pain patients die from suicide than to allow us to continue working and living a semi version of our old life by taking opiates. Any ways I am looking into the pain pump and I am thinking about it differently than you. Here are my thoughts. It will take so much less pain medication to treat our pain using a pain pump than by taking oral medication. Once the pain pump is in use I will no longer have to fight the pharmacy or insurance companies for my meds. I wish our pain doctors would treat us their patients instead of giving into the media frenzy of the opioid epidemic.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Duane Satterfield

    I’ve suffer with CRPS for 20 years. Had a Pain Pump installed about 4 years ago. Dramatically lowered my pain levels! I’ve had zero problems with the implant and only have to refill every 90 days. Save my life.!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Wall

    I have had 4 unnecessary surgeries in the first 5 years of having a pain pump. Pump completely failed, catheter pulled out, and the the connections have leaked twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      It seems that doctors would rather surgically implant a device than just let you take medication.

      With EDS, our tissues are so defective that surgeries don’t always turn out the same way they do for “normal people” and even normal people have problems with these implanted medication pumps. I’ve heard very, very few success stories, so your experience is probably the norm.



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